Special Edition, July 2007
A complete man and a common man - President Thabo Mbeki
We stand today on the shoulders of such giants - Nelson Mandela
Devoted heart and soul to the service of his community - Albertinah Luthuli
A man of destiny and vision - Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi
The man simply known as `Chief` - Nadine Gordimer
A visionary, a man of peace and a unifier - Jacob Zuma
Freedom for his people was the only reward Baba sought - Phyllis Naidoo
A love of humanity - Thabo Mbeki
A chief is primarily a servant of the people - Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa
A person of immense dignity and noble bearing - Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
A life dedicated to Mother Africa - Sandile Sijake
We are the children of Luthuli - Sibusiso Ndebele
Master architect of non-racialism - Mathole Motshekga
Call for contributions
Umrabulo welcomes contributions from readers. Contributions may be in response to previous articles or may raise new issues. Contributions may be sent to the address below.
Joel Netshitenzhe, Pallo Jordan, Naph Manana, Spongy Moodley, Mandla Nkomfe, Mduduzi Mbada, Fébé Potgieter, Michael Sachs, Steyn Speed, Donovan Cloete
Address: Umrabulo, PO Box 61884, Marshalltown, 2107, South Africa
Telephone: 086 717 7077
Fax: 086 633 1437
The contents and views expressed in Umrabulo do not necessarily reflect the policies of the ANC or the views of the editorial collective.
The terrible news of the untimely and puzzling death of our President, Inkosi AJ Luthuli, on 21 July 1967, burst upon us while we were in exile in the United Kingdom. With his passing away it seemed that a great and bright star that would always be there to guide us along the difficult road to freedom had suddenly been extinguished.
When he and others of our leaders were arrested in 1956 and charged with the capital offence of High Treason, we took up the call - We Stand by our Leaders! We stood by our leaders determined to ensure that whatever happened, we would not allow the apartheid regime to take their lives.
When our leaders were arrested at Rivonia and again faced the possibility of a death sentence, again we said - We Stand by our Leaders! And again we stood by our leaders determined to ensure that whatever happened, we would not allow the apartheid regime to send them to the gallows.
We did not know then that they had taken the decision that should they be sentenced to death they would not lodge an appeal. Rather, they would depend on the strength and determination of the masses of our people, supported by the whole of progressive humanity, to defeat the intentions of the oppressor regime.
As they were transported to Robben Island to serve their life sentences, we said, if we have lost them, we have lost them only for a little while, and never forever. We said this because we knew that through struggle, we would liberate them and restore them to their positions at the head of the mass army of national liberation that would never be defeated.
But like a bolt from the blue came the dreadful news that the very head of our movement, the first among equals, President Albert Luthuli, had been struck by a train at a lonely railway crossing not far from his home, and was no more. The masses of our people were not there, and could not have been present, to serve as his protective shield.
He died, but somehow we, and especially his comrade, who had served as his Deputy President, Oliver Tambo, would not accept that his position should be filled until we had won our freedom. In his own way and by his actions, OR Tambo echoed the words of an Irish patriot, who on his way to the gallows, having taken up arms against the English oppressors of his people, said that no man should write his epitaph until Ireland had won her freedom.
It was only in 1985, 18 years after the death of AJ Luthuli, that Oliver Tambo agreed that we, the members of the ANC, should, at the Kabwe Conference, elect him President of the ANC. But still, together with Oliver Tambo, we sang of Albert Luthuli, convinced then, as we still are, that though he no longer lives, he continues still to lead us.
Somewhere I read that the writer, Raymond Chandler, said: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid... He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honour, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."
These words speak to us about Inkosi AJ Luthuli - a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man, a man of honour, without thought of it, the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. A leader of the ANC, the masses of our people considered him their national leader. The peoples of the world considered him a good enough man for any world and welcomed him into their bosom as a Nobel Laureate.
When, in 1952, apartheid tyranny sought to force him to choose between his Chieftaincy and his membership of the ANC, he said, simply, "a chief is primarily a servant of his people". Then, when the tyrants stripped him of his Chieftaincy, he spoke of the uncertain future ahead of him, whose only certainty was that he would continue to be a servant of the people.
"What the future has in store for me I do not know. It might be ridicule, imprisonment, concentration camp, flogging, banishment and even death. I only pray to the Almighty to strengthen my resolve so that none of these grim possibilities may deter me from striving, for the sake of the good name of our beloved country, the Union of South Africa, to make it a true democracy and a true union in form and spirit of all the communities in the land."
Death came to him in a way we did not expect. Because of that we were not on guard to act as his protective shield. But he, and not those who wished him dead, surely rests in perfect peace because those who lived, whom he led, ensured the realisation of his dream - of the transformation of his country into "a true democracy and a true union in form and spirit of all the communities in the land".
Some in many lands, confronted by the pernicious results of the fanatical adulation of individuals, have cried out - what need have we of heroes and heroines! And some have said, cursed is the country that needs heroes and heroines!
And yet we, who are a heroic people, have been blessed in our heroes and heroines. We have been blessed that we had as our leader, AJ Luthuli, who, to lead us, had to walk down our mean streets, a man who was not himself mean, who was neither tarnished nor afraid. Not by his words but by his deeds, he taught us that we too should not ourselves be mean, and neither tarnished nor afraid.
He lived and was ready to live and die by what he said. "It is inevitable that in working for Freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: the Road to Freedom is via the Cross... Success will only come our way if we face this threat (of further repression) with indomitable courage and tenacity of purpose... I am personally very much averse to cliques in any organisation. If there are cliques or pressure-groups in Congress I am not associated with any...
"There comes a time...when a leader must give as practical a demonstration of his convictions and willingness to live up to the demands of the cause, as he expects of his people...I could not have done less than I did (when I joined the anti-pass campaign), and still live with my conscience. I would rightly lose the confidence of my people, and earn the disrespect of right-thinking people in my country and in the world, and the disdain of posterity...
"I also, as a Christian and patriot, could not look on while systematic attempts were made, almost in every department of life, to debase the God-factor in Man or to set a limit beyond which the human being in his black form might not strive to serve his Creator to the best of his ability. To remain neutral in a situation where the laws of the land virtually criticised God for having created men of colour was the sort of thing I could not, as a Christian, tolerate."
Because the millions of our people understood and supported what Albert Luthuli and the ANC said and did, refusing to be "neutral in a situation where the laws of the land virtually criticised God for having created men of colour", today we are free. But the work that he gave us is not yet done.
He had said: "All Africa, both lands which have won their political victories, but have still to overcome the legacy of economic backwardness, and lands like my own whose political battles have still to be waged to their conclusion - all Africa has this single aim; our goal is a united Africa in which the standards of life and liberty are constantly expanding; in which the ancient legacy of illiteracy and disease is swept aside, in which the dignity of man is rescued from beneath the heels of colonialism which have trampled it."
This new struggle, fully to restore the dignity of the African masses, demands the same spirit of self-sacrifice, commitment to serve the people, courage and tenacity of purpose, loyalty to principle, and respect for one`s conscience, which inspired AJ Luthuli, and which he demanded of all those who called themselves patriots, as he led our movement and people during a challenging period in our struggle.
As we engage this new struggle, there is no longer any cause to repeat after Albert Luthuli - "What the future has in store for me I do not know. It might be ridicule, imprisonment, concentration camp, flogging, banishment and even death."
Rather, what we should constantly remind ourselves that if we should allow ourselves the freedom to abuse our liberty and thus become mean and tarnished, we would indeed "rightly lose the confidence of (our) people, and earn the disrespect of right-thinking people in (our) country and in the world, and the disdain of posterity."
And this we should never do, while, with clear consciences, we describe ourselves as successors of Inkosi Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, President of the African National Congress, eminent leader of the people of South Africa, outstanding pan-Africanist, Nobel Peace Laureate, Isithwalandwe.
The British statesperson, Benjamin Disraeli once said: "The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example."
This special edition of Umrabulo is dedicated to such a legacy. It must serve as our teacher, as AJ Luthuli was our teacher.
President: African National Congress
by Nelson Mandela
It is with sadness that we remember the passing of our late president, Chief Albert Luthuli, forty years ago. He was one of the greatest leaders of our freedom struggle - a giant among leaders. We worked together in the ANC, we were accused together in the Treason Trial, we were detained together, and he gave evidence for the accused in the Rivonia Trial. We miss him.
I have spoken often, and written, about my relationship with Chief Luthuli. Here I recall just a few key moments to illuminate what was an outstanding life by any standards.
Chief Luthuli was testifying in the Treason Trial on 21 March 1960 when the Sharpeville massacre shattered our country, changing it forever. Shortly afterwards he was one of the leaders to publicly burn his pass, never to carry it again.
In the State of Emergency that followed Sharpeville, Chief Luthuli was among the thousands of comrades detained by police. When we learned that he had been assaulted, it was hard for us to take. A man of immense dignity and achievement, a lifelong Christian and a man with a dangerous heart condition, was treated like a barnyard animal by men who were not fit to tie his shoes.
I also had the privilege, on many occasions, to go to Groutville in KwaZulu Natal to consult with the Chief after he was banned, including to report to him on the progress of our efforts to set up Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Despite the regime`s efforts to silence him, the Luthuli name became a colossal symbol of peace and unity, far beyond the horizons of Groutville and even the borders of South Africa. We stand today on the shoulders of such giants.
The Chief chose a life of hardship and persecution when he demanded "Let my people go!" In doing so he taught us a very important lesson - that real leaders must be prepared to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.
His leadership was not only valued at home. It was also noticed internationally and was recognised when the Nobel Committee chose him as the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
We remember the words of his Nobel acceptance speech on 11 December 1961: "Our vision has always been that of a non-racial democratic South Africa which upholds the rights of all who live in our country to remain there as full citizens with equal rights and responsibilities with all others. For the consummation of this ideal we have laboured unflinchingly. We shall continue to labour unflinchingly."
It is in his memory and that of the thousands of other comrades who sacrificed so much for our freedom that we continue to labour for the growth of our democracy.
* NELSON MANDELA is a former President of the African National Congress and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
by Albertinah Luthuli
Albert Luthuli was born at Solusi Mission in Matebeleland, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in 1898, where his father John was working with missionaries as an interpreter. He had an older brother who was twelve years his senior and a sister who died soon after she was born. Mamnqiwe, his mother, who was brought up a Christian, was a strict disciplinarian.
After his father died in Zimbabwe, they returned to their ancestral home in Groutville, which was headed by his uncle, Martin Luthuli, who was to be a great influence on him at an early age. From Martin Luthuli he learned how to work for and with the community, and he also observed the art of Chieftainship in practice. Groutville was unique in that the chief was always democratically elected by the community they would serve.
During this time he also attended primary school and graduated to attend Edendale College and Ohlange Institute. At Ohlange he fell under the influence of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, a founder of the institute and one of five African men who co-founded the ANC in 1912.
He then went for teacher training at Adams College. After finishing teacher training, he was employed by the institute as a teacher and finally went on to head the college. That period was a defining moment in his life because he was a passionate educator.
His overwhelming wish in life was for all children to get an opportunity to go to school and prepare themselves for a future in which they could play a meaningful role.
He met his life partner, Nokukhanya Bhengu, at Adams College. They went on to have seven children who watched them live their lives with love and respect until they were separated by death.
Adams College also brought him under the influence of men like Professor ZK Matthews, who was to become a political friend in later life, and Edgar Brookes, a founding pillar of the college.
During his time at Adams College he took charge of the choir, which fulfilled his lifelong love of music. He too was blessed with a beautiful singing voice. He was also a keen sportsman with a particular love for football. He was one of the founding members of South African Football Association, where he held the position of Secretary. His favourite team was Shooting Stars.
He was also a keen tennis player, a sport which he continued playing late into his life, whenever he found a moment to relax.
While at the college he was approached by the community of Groutville to return to take up the post of chief. After much soul searching, he succumbed to this call and left teaching, a job he perceived as a calling and which he greatly loved. This change required a reduction of his salary to the sum of Z13 a quarter. At the time, chiefs were expected to augment their meagre income by charging for the services rendered to the community. However, he chose not to take these payments, arguing that this was much needed money by people who he knew were poor. As a chief he was a model. He devoted his heart and soul to the service of his community.
During this time he travelled extensively throughout Natal and Zululand, talking to other chiefs about how they could improve their lives economically. He encouraged them to form Sugar Associations, which also saw the beginning of what is now known as the South African Sugar Association (SASA). He also encouraged them to form cooperatives, so that they could pool their earnings and efforts to start small enterprises.
He joined active politics after his work had exposed him to the dire situation of the people he served, the poverty, disease and deaths, the lack of any opportunities to make improvements in their lives, the insults and humiliations they were subjected to daily in their country of birth because of their skin colour and hair.
The ANC provided the right vehicle for him to work towards the realisation of the ideals that were close to his heart; the ideal of a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and peaceful South Africa, a South Africa of equal opportunity for all who live in it. I am sure where he is, he must be happy with the progress we are making as a country towards the fulfilment of these noble ideals, first under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela, and now of President Thabo Mbeki. We shall continue along this path led by other ANC Presidents still to follow. Difficulties along this road `we shall overcome!`
Albert Luthuli was President of the ANC from 1952 to 1967, when he died. We can review a few highlights in his career during this period of our struggle. He had to quickly come to grips with the demands of the 1952 Defiance Campaign from being President of the ANC in Natal, a province that was behind in its preparations for the Defiance Campaign, through the actions of his predecessor. He rose to this challenge. The collective dedication and hard work of the leadership and cadres of the ANC made a success of this campaign.
The campaign instilled a spirit of militancy and defiance of unjust laws that grew with time. This campaign, followed by preparations for the Congress of the People and the holding of the Congress in Kliptown in 1955, giving birth to the Freedom Charter, threw the National Party government into a state of panic and desperation. In a message to this Congress, Luthuli said: "...this great day of the Congress of the People, therefore, will be a ray of light and will inspire new hopes for the future. It will be of great significance not only to South Africa but also throughout the world."
I live in an environment, Parliament, where the Freedom Charter is quoted more frequently than any other document I know of.
At this time in the struggle, that of the Defiance Campaign and Congress of the People, volunteerism grew within the ANC. A disciplined ANC cadre was born who was prepared to work hard and solidly for the ANC with no benefit to themselves; just driven by sheer and total dedication to the liberation struggle. Sadly, times are changed. There is a need for all of us to stop and ponder where we come from and transpose the good behaviour from our past to the present. I appeal to the youth, the present and future leadership, to protect this democracy for which so many fought and died.
The National Party government was so incensed with the success of the Defiance Campaign and the Congress of the People that they made fools of themselves by taking the country through the Treason Trial, which lasted four years. At the end of this farcical and expensive trial no one was found guilty. However, all these events injected a momentum in the peoples` struggle for liberation that simply was unstoppable. Banning orders on the leadership of the ANC had become an important tool of the government in a futile attempt to quash the struggle. Emerging from a banning order in 1956, and addressing the ANC in Natal, Luthuli said: "To be back with you again is an occasion I would not miss for anything. It makes me feel so good. It gives me the inspiration one needs so much after a long period of enforced isolation."
And he said; "the struggle must go on."
The newspaper that quoted him remarked that these words were said with great emotion. These were the words from a simple, honest, humble person, with a truthfulness and integrity that touched your heart. He had a presence that embraced you with warmth. This was at the end of a two-year banning order; the worst was yet to come. The bans became renewable every five years thereafter until he died. They were meant to kill the soul and spirit of the recipients who fought a government that had reached the height of fascist behaviour, but failed dismally. However, the banning order did affect negatively a moment which should have been one of glory and celebration, for him, his organisation, and the nation as a whole - the receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The reaction of the South African government was vicious. They loudly condemned the awarding of such a prize to such a person. They called the act evil and intended to embarrass South Africa. Luthuli was a bad man, a communist, belonged to an organisation, the ANC, that was equally bad. It planned to overthrow a duly elected government by subversive means.
Every one who pointed out the evil of apartheid was labelled a communist (Isiphekulazinkuni). This label whipped emotions of rejection and hatred of the non-whites among the majority of white people. A hatred that was not accompanied by logic. The apartheid regime also used irresponsibly harsh language against the Nobel Committee, saying by choosing Luthuli and the ANC for the Award, they had lost the respect of the `free, civilised` world and made a mockery of the hitherto respected Nobel Peace Prize. The result of this furore was the refusal of permission to go receive the Award in Oslo, Norway. This is the reason Luthuli only received the 1960 award in 1961. It took concerted pressure from various sources, in particular the international Anti-Apartheid Movement, to force the National Party government to change its mind and allow him to travel with his wife, MaBhengu.
Even then the government prescribed the route to Oslo, and back to South Africa, reminding him that his banning order would remain in force outside the borders of South Africa and would immediately come back into force the moment he landed at what was then Jan Smuts International Airport.
At this point, I must highlight two statements made by Luthuli. In a call to ANC ranks in November 1954, reiterating his call for 50,000 volunteers he said: "Throughout history no freedom has come to any people without blood and tears. We Africans cannot be an exception to this divine test. But, take courage in the knowledge that, no matter how dark the future may seem, right must triumph over wrong, and also remember that no national movement has ever failed. Shall ours be the first in history to fail? Africa Mayibuye!" In a Presidential address to the Annual Provincial Conference of the Natal Branch of the ANC, July 1956, he stated:
"I charge you to go back to your locality and translate your pledge and resolve that `the struggle must go on!` into action by seeing to it that you mobilise your area to the course of our liberation movement. Attend to the local needs of your people. Preach faithfully and correctly the Congress in your area, which means that you must see to it that the Congress programme and directives are implemented. I repeat, translate Congress Resolutions into action! Remember we must in our lifetime be able to change our Freedom Charter to say:
The two statements are as relevant today as they were in 1956 and will continue to be into our future.
We should, as we emerge from a policy conference, remember these words of the Chief in 1956 as we move forward.
In 1966, while still serving a banning order, the Chief was visited by a high-profile American Senator, Robert Kennedy (the younger brother of President John F Kennedy), who was preparing himself to run for President. Against the vehement objections of the South African government he was determined to go to Groutville to meet the ANC President to hear the other side of the story of South Africa.
The National Party government refused him state security and permission to go. In spite of this refusal he flew in a private helicopter to Groutville, where he sat and talked with the Chief at length.
The following year, on 21 July 1967, exactly 40 years ago, the Chief was killed in mysterious circumstances involving a goods train at Gledhow, Groutville. In 1968 Senator Robert Kennedy was killed by an assassin`s bullet.
Another associate in thinking and a friend of the Chief, Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, with whom he had jointly called for sanctions against South Africa at a sitting of the UN General Assembly in 1962, was assassinated in 1968. This followed the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963. It was a bad decade for political progressives.
ALBERTINAH NOMATHULI LUTHULI is a daughter of Chief Albert Luthuli and an ANC Member of Parliament.
by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi
I hope that this account of my personal experience of Inkosi Albert Mvumbi Luthuli will serve as a contribution to provide a greater understanding of the monumental importance of this African giant to our country`s history.
Inkosi Albert Luthuli was a product of the same milieu which shaped my own life. He left an indelible imprint on my life. It continues to inspire and guide me to this day. In fact, his character was forged within the fraternity of traditional leaders and the influence of the Zulu Royal Household.
It is worth sketching the turbulent contours of history which shaped Inkosi Luthuli`s life. Since the defeat of the independent Zulu Kingdom by the British at Ulundi on 4 July 1879, the Zulu Royal House kept alive the fire of resistance to colonialism and the dream of liberation of all South Africans.
It was King Shaka, the founder of the Zulu nation, who received the first white settlers in his Kingdom. He granted them permission to settle in what is today the city of Durban. Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Piet Retief tragedy, Zulu kings up to King Cetshwayo received white people with friendship and accepted them as fellow human beings.
It was white imperialists such as Sir Bartle Frere who wanted to "break Zulu power once and for all". King Cetshwayo tried unsuccessfully to sue for peace, but the British colonialists had their own agenda. King Cetshwayo resisted white encroachments and was drawn into the war as a reluctant combatant in defence of his Kingdom. He was held as a prisoner in the Castle in Cape Town and even went to London to make representations, in vain, to Queen Victoria in the hope of reclaiming his Kingdom.
The imperial authorities fragmented his Kingdom and he died the lonely death of a fugitive in Eshowe in 1884. His son, King Dinuzulu, was to suffer worse humiliation than any of his forefathers. He was twice exiled, the first time on the island of St Helena in 1888. He returned to his Kingdom much reduced in status, yet, to his people, he was still their King. It was for this reason that he became involved in the Bambatha (poll tax) Rebellion in 1906. Inkosi Bambatha took his wife, Siyekwe (Uma-Zuma) Kholekile, to King Dinuzulu`s Royal Residence to hide there. This resulted in King Dinuzulu being charged for high treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It was King Dinuzulu`s eldest daughter, Princess Phikisile Harriet, in one of those fascinating crosscurrents of history, who was to marry Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the African National Congress in 1912. Dr Seme had actually approached King Dinuzulu to ask him to agree to be one of the patrons of the ANC. King Dinuzulu, unfortunately, died in 1913.
The origin and conduct of the liberation movement within the structures of the Zulu Kingdom provided the serendipitous opportunity to cross-pollinate with Mahatma Gandhi`s Natal Indian National Congress, which also served as an inspiration when the ANC was founded a few years later. Mahatma Gandhi lived in Phoenix, a few kilometres from Inanda, the birthplace of Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme.
This was the very environment I knew since birth and the one in which I first met Inkosi Albert Luthuli. I first saw him when used to come to the Royal Residence where I grew up. I first met him when he attended an Imbizo of amaKhosi of the Kingdom convened by my uncle, Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu, who was the Zulu regent during the interregnum.
Even though, on that occasion, he was just one among many great leaders of our nation, and that the Imbizo had merely been convened to exercise a consultative role on Bills that the Pretoria government had referred to the Zulu people, I was immediately impressed by how his demeanour, intellect and sheer presence set him apart as a man of destiny and vision. These meetings were also attended by the Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, the first President-General of the ANC.
At that time I recognised that he was a man of extraordinary stature. I came to admire him as a role model, even though at the time I was merely a student. I grew much closer to him after my rustication from Fort Hare University. I had just been expelled on account of my membership and participation in the ANC Youth League which protested the visit of the then Governor General of South Africa, Major G Brand van Zyl to the University. When I left the university, I stopped in Durban from September 1950 to 1952, which was an important period in my political formation.
At that time I frequently visited the Grey Street Lakhani Chambers ANC offices which were headed by Masabalala Yengwa, where I often had the opportunity to meet with Inkosi Luthuli. I found a way to make such more frequent visits when I was employed in the nearby Office of the Native Commissioner in Stanger Street as a temporary clerk. That was when Inkosi Luthuli was elected President of the ANC in Natal. I felt privileged to witness how he gathered unanimous support because of his capacity of bringing people together.
He replaced AWG Champion, known as "Mahlathamnyama" or "dark forests", who was a powerful figure and had worked closely with the famous trade unionist, Clements Kadalie from one of the first black trade unions, the Industrial and Commercial Worker`s Union (ICU).
After my rustication from Fort Hare, I was shadowed by the security police and because of this I was not a card-carrying member of the ANC, although I was still ANC. The leaders in the province decided to take the precaution of not having my name appear in the books of the organisation. There were young men who worked with me at the Native Commissioner`s Offices such as Bill Bhengu and Simon Mthimkhulu. The two later qualified as lawyers. As civil servants they also did not carry membership cards of the ANC, although they too were ANC.
Together we attended the ANC Conference in Beatrice Street Social Centre in Durban. To ensure his own re-election, Champion, instead of asking for ANC card-carrying members to participate in voting for the party`s office bearers, requested "those voting for Champion to move to this side of the hall and those voting for Luthuli to move to the other side". This was most unusual.
My colleagues and I, including Bill Bhengu and Simon Mthimkhulu, moved to the side voting for Inkosi Luthuli. It appeared that Champion had packed the meeting with his supporters and thought that he would win the day. Yet when the counting took place, Inkosi Luthuli was elected the President of the ANC in Natal by an overwhelming majority. Later Champion would take swipes at Inkosi Luthuli in his Ilanga column claiming that he was elected by "civil servants". This was a less than veiled reference to us. Champion had actually been hoisted by his own petard.
Inkosi Luthuli then became one of my mentors. He advised me, for example, to take the advice of my mother, Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu, to abandon my law articles with Rowley Arenstein, the brave lawyer who defended ANC leaders. Inkosi Luthuli and other ANC leaders urged me, instead, to return to Mahlabathini to take up my hereditary position as the Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan so as to better serve our liberation struggle.
After returning to Mahlabathini I would, from time to time, drive to Groutville to seek advice from my mentor, Inkosi Luthuli. I was later to receive a grave warning from my first cousin, King Cyprian Nyangayezizwe Bhekuzulu ka Solomon, that Commissioner-General Corrie Nel had told him in confidence that the government was aware that I kept going to Groutville to see Inkosi Luthuli. At the time Inkosi Luthuli was under a banning order. I responded to the King why, if my visits were illegal, the magistrate in Mahlabathini had not been instructed to warn me against doing so. I kept to my routine of visits.
Before other banning orders were re-imposed on Inkosi Luthuli, he would come to my home at KwaPhindangene. On some occasions, he was driven to my place by the late Dr Zami Conco. The doctor had chaired the Kliptown Congress in 1955. On another occasion, he and Mrs Luthuli were brought over by Louise Hooper. Inkosi Luthuli would rest during the day and we held our discussions during the night. On such visits, Dr Conco`s car would be parked in my closed garage and my car would be parked outside in the yard.
Inkosi Luthuli also asked me, as the Traditional Prime Minister of the King`s father, King Bhekuzulu Cyprian ka Solomon, to arrange appointments for him with the King so that he could stop at the King`s Khethomthandayo Royal Residence to pay his respects to the King.
The constant advice I received from Inkosi Luthuli was to bring people together as a way of transcending the deep political, racial and social divisions which persisted in South Africa. His lifework embodied this message. This simple, yet transforming, message resulted in Inkosi Luthuli becoming the first black person in Africa to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The first was the African American, Dr Ralph Bunche.
One cannot speak of the essence of Inkosi Luthuli`s life without reference to the importance of his Christian faith which provided the ballast through which every aspect of his life interconnected. For Inkosi Luthuli, Christianity was not an abstract theological idea, it was immensely practical. He lived the life of faith. The most precious truth he shared with me was that all our deeds are in vain if Christ is not the Rock upon which we stand.
He spoke with something of the righteous authority of the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos, for his was a prophetic role, yet he always showed the compassion of the New Testament saints. Emulating the life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, he eschewed violence and gave content to the Beatitude, "Blessed are the peacemakers". This should not somehow imply weakness, for it was the power of his message: grace and reconciliation, which, ultimately, collapsed the citadel of apartheid.
Inkosi Luthuli knew that the liberation of South Africa could only be brought about in an all-inclusive manner and through negotiations. I remained faithful to his teachings of passive resistance and non-violence to defeat apartheid. He strongly believed in gaining international support for our cause and actively promoted the formation of an ANC mission abroad. The ANC mission-in-exile gathered many of those who were growing restless within South Africa.
He encouraged me to find ways to spread the ANC`s message, which I continued to do until, and even after, his death. It was, however, only in 1975 that I could form Inkatha as a home for the political and cultural mobilisation of black people in South Africa.
I could only do so when the mission-in-exile recognised the wisdom of this course, which, originally, has been advocated by Inkosi Luthuli himself, but could not be carried forward because of his untimely death in 1967. The ANC mission-in-exile, as well as the ANC leaders in prison, came around to supporting the formation of Inkatha only a few years after Inkosi Luthuli`s death. When I founded Inkatha in 1975, I consulted the leader of the ANC-in-exile, Oliver Tambo.
There were two strategies that the liberation movement finally embraced: that of the armed struggle and the campaign for sanctions and disinvestment against South Africa. I continued with the old strategy of the founding fathers of the ANC: non-violence and negotiations. I saw no inherent contradiction in this, although I came under pressure to denounce the armed struggle.
I resisted and said that I perfectly understood why the ANC mission-in-exile felt compelled to take up arms after their efforts at negotiating a future with the Nationalist government had come to naught. Dr Piet Koornhof was once sent to me by the South African cabinet after, when addressing a rally in Soweto, I said that I had no objection to anyone who wanted to join the forces of the armed struggle to do so, but that I could not campaign for other young people to do so before one of my three sons did so.
When Inkosi Luthuli was tragically killed in 1967, the ANC mission-in-exile and his family asked me to deliver the funeral oration on behalf of all black South Africans. His death did not diminish the closeness that had grown between me and the Luthuli family.
After his death, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) bestowed an award on Inkosi Luthuli posthumously. Mama Nokukhanya Luthuli asked me to accompany her to Lesotho where she was to receive the award from King Moshoeshoe II on 23 July 1972. The King was handing the award to her on behalf of the OAU. After we ascended up to the mountain where the award was bestowed, she asked me to pass a vote of thanks on her behalf and on behalf of black South Africa. During this visit, the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Chief Leabua Jonathan, showed me where South African soldiers had mercilessly mowed down ANC MK soldiers.
Inkosi Luthuli`s death did not herald the end of his guiding presence in South Africa or in my life. When confronted with difficult decisions for myself, my party, my people and our country, I often ask myself: what would Inkosi Luthuli have advised me to do. He has remained my mentor long after his death.
I remember how Inkosi Luthuli often told me to recognise right from wrong by asking myself what would be good or bad for the poorest of the poor in my community, and for their children and grandchildren. This elegantly simple, yet profound benchmark, has guided me ever since. I do so wish this truth could be embraced by everyone who wields power.
I learned from Inkosi Luthuli that morality and politics are not a contradiction in terms. He was a deeply ethical and moral man, while, at the same time, being a consummate strategist. He infused our liberation movement with a sense of morality, not only as a tactic, but as the means for liberation. At times I fear that this is a lesson not fully appreciated or remembered.
He never saw any fellow South African as an enemy to be defeated. Rather, he saw people as individuals who must be brought aboard an all-inclusive solution; one driven by the black majority in the pursuit of a non-racial destiny.
It was within the spirit of this remarkable legacy I convened the Buthelezi Commission in 1980 which, for the first time in our history, brought together black, white and Indian people in KwaZulu and Natal to discuss a joint future. Its work laid the foundation for the KwaZulu Natal Indaba of 1986, which led to the Joint Executive Authority of KwaZulu Natal. This was South Africa`s first truly multi-racial government, albeit on a provincial basis only. It is no coincidence that references to Inkosi Luthuli sprung from all parties and sides during both the Buthelezi Commission and the Indaba.
This is the man I learnt to love and revere and who meant so much to me. And because he knew the midnight as well as the high noon, because he understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit, he gave his people strength with which to overcome despair.
It is important that we live the legacy of this titan, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, and draw upon it to chart the course ahead, rather than merely dedicating buildings and streets in his name. Our struggle for liberation is far from complete and our young democracy is threatened by many perils. Now, more than ever, Inkosi Luthuli`s legacy should serve to inspire and guide the visionary leadership which our country so desperately needs and deserves.
* PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI is Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders (Kwazulu Natal) and President of the Inkatha Freedom Party.
by Nadine Gordimer*
(*This is an extract from an essay written by Nadine Gordimer in 1959.)
There are three million white people and more than nine million black people in the union of South Africa. Only a handful of the whites have ever met Albert John Luthuli. He has never been invited to speak over the radio, and his picture rarely appears in the white daily press in South Africa. Yet this government-deposed African chief - who, far from losing his honourable title since he was officially deprived of it, is generally known simply as `Chief` - is the only man to whom the nine million Africans give any sort of wide allegiance as a popular leader. He is the one man in black politics in South Africa whose personality is a symbol of human dignity which South Africans as a whole, no matter what their individual or political affiliations are and no matter what state of enlightenment or ignorance they may be in, recognise as their dignity.
Luthuli is a sixty-year-old Zulu and an African aristocrat. His mother was a Gumede - one of the most honoured of Zulu clans - and his grandmother was given, as was the custom with the daughter of a prominent tribal chief, to the court of the famous paramount chief of unconquered Zululand in the 1870s, Cetshwayo. Luthuli has a number of those physical characteristics which are regarded as typical of the warrior Zulu and to which even the most ardent supporter of apartheid would pay grudging admiration. His head is large and set majestically back on a strong neck; he has a deep, soft voice; and although he is not a tall man he seems always to look as big as anyone else in the room.
Among his less obvious characteristics is a sense of repose; sometimes a monumental quiet. If more white South Africans could meet him, or even hear him speak on a public platform, they would be astonished (and perhaps even a little ashamed - he makes that sort of impression) to measure the real man against the bloodthirsty demagogue that is the African leader as they imagine him. Apart from anything else, he speaks English with a distinct American intonation, acquired along with his education at schools run by American missionaries.
Luthuli`s ancestral home is Groutville Mission, in the Umvoti Mission Reserve on the coast of Natal, near Durban, and his personality stands sturdily upon this little corner of Africa. He has never, even as a child, lived in the collection of thatched mud hits in which tribal Africans usually live because Reverend Grout, an American missionary who came to South Africa in 1835, had planned his mission village on the European pattern, with houses and if as a child the young Luthuli did his share of herding cattle, he did it after school hours, because Grout had seen to it that there was fenced common that would free the children to attend school. As the Umvoti Reserve is a mission and not a tribal reserve, the chiefs are elected, and there is no dynasty in the hereditary sense. Yet ability has tended to create a dynasty of its own; a number of the elected chiefs have been members of the Luthuli family. When Luthuli was a child, his uncle was chief, but after 1921 the chieftainship went out of the hands of the family until 1936, when Luthuli himself, then a teacher at Adams College (one of the most respected of mission educational establishments for Africans) was elected.
Luthuli was educated at various mission schools and at Adams College, and in 1921 he qualified as an instructor in the teachers` training course and joined the staff of Adams. He could look back on a gentle, almost sheltered childhood in the protective shadow of his uncle`s house and the mission at Groutville. The one had given him the confidence that comes to children who belong to an honoured family; the other, which provided his first contact with the world of whites, did not impose the harsh impact of the colour bar too early on his young mind. Perhaps as a result of this, even today, when the white government of South Africa deposed him as chief of his people, several times banned him from free movement about the country, and arrested him - as President-General of the African National Congress and a leader of the liberation movement of Africans in South Africa - on a charge of treason that kept him in court through almost a year of inquiry, he has no hate in him. He has never been anti-white and believes he never will be. He started off his life by seeing human beings, no colours. It is a very different matter today for the urban African child who is born and grows up in the slum areas of big cities in South Africa, cheek by jowl with the whites in the paradox of the colour bar; he is made aware, from the start, that his blackness is a shroud, cutting him off, preparing him to be - as the Africans often describe themselves as feeling - `half a man`.
Luthuli`s consciousness of the disabilities of the African people awoke as soon as he began to teach. "Before that," he explains, "when men like myself were children at school and college students, we didn`t have much chance to compare our lot with that of white people. Living in a reserve and going to a mission school or college, far away from the big white cities, our only real contact with white people was with the school principal and the missionary, and so if we suffered in any way from discriminatory treatment by white men, we tended to confuse our resentment of the schoolboy toward those in authority who abuse him." But the moment he was adult and a teacher, the normal disabilities of being a black man in South Africa, plus the disabilities of being a black teacher, plus the special sensitivity to both that comes about through being an educated and enlightened person, hit home. Through church work and the activities of the teachers` association, he busied himself within the existing framework that the white world imposed upon it; he was too young and, in a sense, too ignorant to understand then, as he came to later, that the desire and the context in which it existed were contradictory.
In 1936, after some deliberation and misgiving, for he loved to teach, Luthuli left Adams College and teaching forever and went home to Groutville as chief. The duties and responsibilities of chieftainship were in his blood and his family tradition, so from one point of view the change was not a dramatic one. But from another aspect the change was to be total and drastic. His thirty-eight years a non-political man were over; he found himself, as he puts it, "plunged right into South African politics - and by the South African government itself".
The year of the Hertzog Bills was 1936. They were two: the Representation of Natives Bills and the Native Trust and Land Bill. The Representation of Natives Bill took away from all non-whites in South Africa the hope of an eventual universal franchise that they had been told since 1853 they would someday attain. It offered Africans in the Cape Province representation through the election, on a separate voters` roll, of three white members of Parliament. It offered Africans in the rest of the Union the opportunity to elect - not by individual vote but by means of chiefs, local councils, and advisory boards, all acting as electoral colleges - four white senators. Finally, a Natives` Representative Council was to be instituted, to consist of twelve elected African representatives, four government-nominated African representatives, and five white officials, with the Secretary for Native Affairs as chairman. Its function was to be purely advisory, to keep the government acquainted with the wants and views of the African people.
Once the bills were law, Luthuli had vested in his authority as chief of the Umvoti Mission Reserve the collective vote of his five thousand people. White men and black canvassed him eagerly. He, who had scarcely talked politics at all, found himself talking scarcely anything else. For him, the reserve and its troubles had come into focus with the whole South African political scene. At the same time, he took up his traditional duties as chief - that combination of administrator, lawgiver, father-confessor, and figurehead. He found his chief`s court or ibandla, held under a shady tree, "a fine exercise in logical thinking", and the cases on which he gave judgement, according to a nice balance of tribal lore and the official Code of Native Law, varied from boundary disputes to wrangles over the payment of lobolo (bride price). He could not make the land go around among his people - not even the uneconomic five-acre units without freehold which were all that Groutville, a better reserve than most, had to offer - but he tried to help them to make the best of what they had: he even formed a Bantu cane growers` association to protect those among his tribesman who were small growers of sugar. "The real meaning of our poverty was brought home to me," he says. "I could see that the African people had no means of making a living according to civilised standards, even if they belonged, as we did in Groutville, to a civilised Christian community, so far as African communities go."
From 1945 until 1948, Luthuli himself sat on the Natives` Representative Council. The Council proved to be a `toy telephone` (in the phrase most tellingly used at the time) and no one regretted its passing when the Nationalist government of Dr Malan abolished it when it came into power in 1948.
The same year in which Luthuli took up his seat on the Natives` Representative Council, he joined an organisation to which, in time, no government was able to turn a deaf ear. This was the African National Congress. The Congress Movement began in 1912, just after the Act of Union that made the four provinces of South Africa into one country, when the Africans realised that the union`s motto, "Unity is Strength", was to refer strictly to whites. "When the ANC started," Luthuli says, "it had no idea of fighting for a change in fundamentals. It was concerned with the African`s immediate disabilities - passes, not issues. The question of the fight for political rights may have been implied, but was not on the platform at all."
When he joined the Congress, he was elected to the executive of the Natal Branch at once, and he remained on it continuously for the six years during which the movement felt its way to effectiveness, leaving behind the old methods - deputations, petitions, conferences that enabled the government to `keep in touch with the people` without having to take their views into account - that had failed to achieve anything for the Africans. Finally, in 1949 Congress drafted a Programme of Action that was based on the premise that in South Africa freedom can come to the non-white only through extra-parliamentary methods. A year later, which Luthuli had just been elected Provincial President of Natal, Congress decided to launch a full-scale passive resistance campaign in defiance of unjust, colour-bar laws. "This decision," he comments, "had my full approval."
In 1952 the African National Congress, the South African Indian Congress, and other related associations organised defiance groups all over the country. Thousands of Africans and, in lesser numbers, Indians, and even some whites, defied the colour-bar laws and invited arrest. Africans and Indians entered libraries reserved for white people, used post office counters reserved for white people, and camped out in open ground in the middle of the white city of Durban. Black and white, they went to prison. Luthuli was everywhere in Natal, addressing meetings, encouraging individuals, carrying with him in the most delicate situations, under the nose of government ire and police hostility, an extraordinary core of confidence and warmth. All his natural abilities of leadership came up simply and strongly.
Luthuli had gone into the Campaign a country chief; he came out a public figure. In September 1952, while Defiance was still on, he was given an ultimatum by the Native Affairs Department: he must resign from Congress and the Defiance Campaign or give up his chieftainship. "I don`t see the contradiction between my office as chief and my work in Congress," he answered, courteously but bluntly. "In the one I work in the interests of my people within tribal limits, and in the other I work for them on a national level, that`s all. I will not resign from either."
On Wednesday, November 12, 1952, the Native Commissioner announced that Chief AJ Luthuli was dismissed by the government from his position as chief of the Umvoti Mission Reserve.
A month after his deposition as chief, Luthuli was elected President-General of the African National Congress and became leader of the entire Congress movement in South Africa. Wherever he went, he was greeted by cheering crowds of Africans; at last they had a leader who had shown himself a leader in places less comfortable and closer to their lives than conferences and conventions.
The government found that ex-Chief Luthuli seemed to be more of a chief than ever. A ban was served on him under one of those new powers that had been legislated to deal with the Defiance Campaign, a ban which debarred him for a year from all the important cities and towns in South Africa. The day it expired, Luthuli opened the South African Indian Congress in Durban and, guessing that his time was short, left at once by air for Johannesburg to attend a protest meeting about Sophiatown removals.
As he stepped off the plane at Johannesburg, the Special Branch police served him with a second ban. And what a ban! This time he was to be confined for two years to a radius of about twenty miles around his home in Groutville village. During the long period of confinement he suffered a slight stroke, and while he lay ill in his house in Groutville, his wife had to beg permission from the police to let him be taken to a hospital in Durban, sixty miles away. Permission was granted, and he was rushed to Durban. There he spent two months in the hospital, and from the second day Special Branch men hung about his ward in constant attendance. Despite these unwelcome presences, who, he says, day after day used to inquire sheepishly after his health, Chief made a complete recovery except for a barely perceptible droop that showed itself in his left eyelid when he was tired.
His ban expired in July 1956. He was free to move about the country again: but not for long. About four in the morning of December 5, there was a loud knocking at the door of the Luthuli`s house in Groutville. The Luthuli`s struggled out of sleep. Four white Special Branch men were at the door; they had come to arrest Chief on charge of treason. He was flown to Johannesburg and taken straight to prison at the Johannesburg Fort. And there he found himself accused of treason with one hundred and fifty-five others. Some were his respected colleagues over many years; some represented ideologies that were largely or partly distasteful to him some he had never heard of before.
Among the hundred and fifty-six of the original accused, there was a sprinkling of ex-Communists and fellow travellers - almost exclusively among the twenty-three whites - but the great majority were simply people who abhor the injustice and misery of apartheid and want all races in South Africa to share freely in the life of the country.
The first list of those against whom charges had been withdrawn was announced in December 1957, when the preliminary inquiry was in recess. Among the names was that of Chief AJ Luthuli, President-General of the African National Congress. Chief was at home in Groutville after the nine-month ordeal in court, preparing for the wedding of his medical-student daughter, when the news came, followed by a paper storm of congratulatory telegrams. His feelings were mixed: he could not see why he should be freed while his colleagues in the liberation movement were held; on the other hand, he was glad to get on with Congress work outside the Drill Hall. A few weeks later, charges were withdrawn against some more of the accused, bringing down to ninety-one the number of people who were committed for trial for high treason in January 1958.
The defence applied for the discharge of the ninety-one, saying that the Crown, by the way it had formulated the charges, had established "nothing other than a desire to put an end to any form of effective opposition to the Government of this country - a desire to outlaw free expression of thought and ideas which people in all democratic countries of the West assert the right to hold and utter." The application for discharge was refused. In the public gallery of the Drill Hall (divided down the middle by a token barrier of low chains and posts to ensure that whites sat on one side and blacks on the other) Luthuli heard the magistrate`s decision. Why he was not still among the accused in the dock was as much of a mystery to him as to anyone else. Whatever the reason, Chief sat in the Drill Hall as a spectator and a free man that day, and many heads, black and white, turned to look at him. When the court adjourned, he walked out among the free men, too; free to travel about the country and address meetings and attend gatherings where he pleased. For how long, of course, he could not guess.
But that day at the beginning of 1958, when he walked out of the Drill Hall, the sudden release of his freedom was fresh upon him, lightheaded, like a weakness, though the weight of the ordeal of the trial to which his colleagues were committed oppressed him, and he even looked a little lonely. And such are the paradoxes of human behaviour that, as Luthuli crossed the street, two of the white police officers who had become familiar figures on duty in the Drill Hall all through the preparatory examination came around the corner and called out, forgetful, across the barrier of apartheid that seeks to legislate against all human contact between black and white and across the barrier of hate that the pass and baton had built between the police and the black man in South Africa, "Well, hullo! You look fine! What are you doing around here? Can`t you keep away from the old Drill Hall, after all?" And rather gingerly, Chief was amiable in reply.
* NADINE GORDIMER is an author and Nobel Literature Prize Laureate. This is an extract from an essay written in 1959, which appeared in her collection of non-fiction, `The Essential Gesture` in 1988.
by Jacob Zuma
It is a moving experience to commit into writing some thoughts to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of a great man of our time, one of the former presidents of the African National Congress, Inkosi Albert John Luthuli. He lived and led our mighty organisation during one of the critical periods in the history of our struggle.
Oka-Madlanduna was a man of many talents and experiences, which allowed him to provide the kind of leadership that enhanced the strength and capacity of our movement as a whole.
Inkosi Luthuli was a practising Christian, and a member of the United Congregational Church of South Africa, in which he was a respected member and a lay preacher. His Christian beliefs were clearly reflected in his outlook on life, justice and his attitude towards his fellow beings. His Christian beliefs largely guided his commitment to the liberation struggle. They greatly influenced his ideals of peace and freedom as well as his political activities. He was a man of God who believed in human rights, freedom, peace, political stability and the economic prosperity of our country.
His strong religious beliefs and his unfailing commitment to the struggle are illustrated in his own legendary words:
"My only painful concern at times is that of the welfare of my family but I try even in this regard, in a spirit of trust and surrender to God`s will as I see it, to say: `God will provide`.
"It is inevitable that in working for freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: The Road to Freedom is via the Cross".
Inkosi Luthuli, a teacher by profession, belonged to the old generation of good teachers who understood the profession to be a national calling and a proud duty. This generation also knew that teachers were supposed to be leaders in their communities. Oka-Madlanduna was an excellent teacher in many ways. Inkosi Luthuli was a simple man who led a simple life, not interested in the trappings that came with being a leader or a chief. He always walked to his sugarcane plantation and to his shop known as KwaNonhlevu on his own, going about his work without anyone accompanying him. It is regrettable that perhaps it was this simplicity in the conduct of his life that led to his tragic death, which up to now remains a mystery. With hindsight, many of us would agree that as a President of such a powerful organisation, which was certain to eventually take over the country, he should not have travelled or walked alone.
This anniversary reminds us of Inkosi Luthuli`s skills as a good listener and a good debater, an activist, a freedom fighter, and an organiser. It also provides an opportunity for us to look back and reflect on the history of our movement, and its unique qualities. This uniqueness can be attributed to the type of leadership that the movement had in the critical stages, at the height of apartheid; leaders who could see beyond the present, who were selfless, dedicated and committed to their people and the country. It is that type of leadership that we have learnt from Madlanduna: to put people and the country first above everything else.
What was remarkable about Madlanduna was that his leadership position did not stop him having fun. He was a volunteer of the Congress who loved to lead freedom songs when he addressed public meetings, and yet he was acknowledged as a powerful leader and a statesman. He was a visionary and a man of peace, a unifier who was able to unite the ANC and the Congress Alliance.
He was an honest man who believed in his comrades without reservation. It was Luthuli`s extraordinary qualities of leadership, and the character and vision of the ANC he led, that resulted in him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making us all eternally proud.
As an Inkosi yabasemakholweni community at Groutville Mission, he was an excellent leader. He understood the African traditions in general and the Zulu culture and tradition in particular. To him, his Christian beliefs and African culture and tradition complemented each other.
The versatile leader was also an experienced farmer who participated in the activities of the organised farming community, including the Groutville Cane Growers Association. He loved sport and took part in some of its activities, particularly soccer, at an administration level.
Before becoming President-General of the ANC, Inkosi Luthuli served in a number of structures including the infamous Native Representative Council. This body is one of the important landmarks on our long journey to freedom.
He became the ANC President-General after growing through its ranks. Given time and the contribution he made in the organisation, he was elected the provincial president of the ANC. Prior to his election to the position of provincial president, Chief Luthuli had served in the provincial executive committee of the ANC under the Presidency of AWG Champion. He led the Natal province in an outstanding manner, and it was not surprising that the province nominated him for the presidency at the ANC National Conference in 1952.
He was elected President-General during one of the most challenging periods of the liberation struggle. At that time, the ANC had become fully militant, with a vibrant programme of action that included the Defiance Campaign. The movement needed a president who was fully committed, prepared and ready to lead the organisation militantly.
Prior to the adoption of the militant programme of action the movement produced one of the most important documents called the "Africans` Claims". The ANC Youth League by that time had injected a new determination within our movement. A new constitution had been devised, one which was more appropriate to the efficient workings of our organisation. Describing the new character of our organisation at this period in his autobiography "Let My People Go", Inkosi Luthuli says "the machinery was overhauled and altered in ways which turned a rather vague and shapeless body into something whose workings its members could grasp and a drive was launched to establish branches throughout the country."
It was this kind of ANC that he led from 1952 - an ANC that had become mass-based in every respect, and established an army of volunteers throughout the country. It was during the early years of Luthuli`s presidency that the seeds of non-racialism really took root. The Congress Alliance was formed, consisting of the African National Congress, Indian Congress, Coloured People`s Congress, South African Congress of Trade Unions and the Congress of Democrats.
This Congress Alliance spoke volumes with regard to the question of the struggle against racism in our country. It was a concrete step to establish non-racialism in a country where racism had been institutionalised. It was during his presidency that the ANC together with the Congress Alliance led the process that culminated in the adoption of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in Kliptown, Johannesburg in 1955.
The Congress of the People was the first such political gathering in the history of our country, in terms of its size and non-racial nature. The people of our country led by our movement put forward a clear vision in the Freedom Charter on the kind of South Africa we wanted. At the Congress, Inkosi Luthuli`s leadership was recognised with the movement`s highest honour, the Isithwalandwe award. He was given this honour together with two other outstanding leaders at the time. These were Father Trevor Huddleston and Dr Yusuf Dadoo.
Father Huddleston had played an important role both as a Christian and a community leader, who understood the plight of the black people in our country and was doing something about it. Dr Dadoo was a prominent leader of the Indian Congress who signed the historic agreement - known as the Three Doctors` Pact - with Dr AB Xuma, the then president of the ANC. Dr Dadoo was also one of the leaders of the Communist Party.
The ANC at this time followed the non-violent policy in its methods of conducting the struggle. Inkosi Luthuli believed firmly in this policy and as the president of the ANC, articulated this policy very well. A big challenge though was the mounting violence of the apartheid state.
Inkosi Luthuli believed in the Congress Alliance very deeply and had a profound understanding of it. One of the components of the Alliance was the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), which represented the working class in general, particularly unionised workers. He best encapsulated the nature of the relationship when he argued that the ANC was the shield of the nation and SACTU the spear. He did not separate labour and the people`s movement and saw the two complementing each other.
While he was a profound believer in non-violent struggle, when the time came, necessitated by material conditions, for the armed struggle to be adopted as the new policy of the ANC, good judgement made him accept and believe in the armed struggle. He was part of the debates when the armed struggle concept was discussed in the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC). Having agreed to its adoption, the NEC took a decision that the matter be discussed in the whole of the Congress Alliance. Inkosi Luthuli was also party to that debate, which finally reached the same conclusion as the NEC.
It is said that he also participated in the naming of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe. Describing the circumstances that forced the ANC to adopt the armed struggle, he uses the analogy of a man confronted by another powerful and hostile man.
If he retreats to his home and the hostile man follows him to his homestead, this leaves him with little option as there is no place to run but to pick up his spear and defend himself. Inkosi Luthuli said that we, the oppressed nation, were like that man being attacked in his homestead. Therefore, by adopting the armed struggle, we were as an organisation picking up the spear to defend ourselves - the spear of the nation. This illustrates that the decision to adopt the armed struggle was an unavoidable logical conclusion in the face of the serious brutality that faced the oppressed people.
The commemoration of Inkosi Luthuli`s legacy and life is a reminder of the responsibilities we face of carrying on our work to achieve the ideals he lived and died for. It means ANC policies must reflect the struggle against poverty, to extricate the poorest of the poor and the workers of our country from hunger and deprivation. It means we should continue to improve the living conditions of our people, with ANC policies that turn into reality the access to services that underscore human dignity. We would be able to say that we are taking forward Madlanduna`s wishes if we achieve the goals he so cherished - to make this a prosperous home to all its people, regardless or race, colour or creed.
* JACOB ZUMA is Deputy President of the African National Congress.
by Phyllis Naidoo
If you asked Chief Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, Baba, what was the defining moment in his life, what would he have said? You would probably expect him to say the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1961. You would expect him to argue that it is an award available to a select few.
It is a world event and a rare award. Television cameras would capture this magnificent event and beam the images around the globe. In Norway, the audience would be dressed in formal attire, whose pearls and diamonds would glisten in the lights of thousands of cameras. The print media would give you large headlines. Maybe weeks thereafter you would see Baba`s face just about everywhere. Every poster, every leaflet of the ANC`s communication service would proudly display his photograph. And so it should be, right?
However, like funeral speeches, awards are to massage the egos of the living. Speakers will tell how well they knew the deceased, while he is buried with the truth. So too the Nobel award. Many are not enamoured with the award, as some very strange people have won it (like Henry Kissinger).
You may ask what of the award of Isithwalandwe at the Congress of the People on the 26 June 1955. Was it an epic moment in Baba`s life? It is our movement`s most prestigious award. Both Baba and Dr Yusuf Dadoo, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, were banned and restricted, and unable to attend the congress at Kliptown to receive their award.
For Baba, the birth of the Freedom Charter would have been far more important, I think. (I cannot see him hanging up his awards for all to view.)
Note his message to the ANC Conference in December 1955: "Let us march together to freedom saying: `The road to freedom may be long and thorny but because our cause is just, the glorious end - Freedom - is ours.` Let us truly pledge to work in love of freedom for all, in our lifetime... and as we march, pledge to struggle together for freedom. Let us draw inspiration from the Freedom Charter - The People Shall Govern." (ANC Speaks, Page 12)
Personal awards were not Baba`s forte; freedom of his people was.
But my understanding of his defining moment is had from discussions with him; his own book ("Let My People Go"); of having worked with him; and having read most of the material available on him. I believe it was when he was called as a witness for the defence in the Treason Trial of 1956.
The late Harry Bloom, one our legal gurus, describes the events as follows:
"Last December (1957), a few weeks before the Preparatory Examination (PE) was due to resume, sixty one of the accused were discharged, with a statement by the Attorney General (AG) that there was no case against them. This, after a detailed preparation of the case had occupied a team of Special Branch detectives for two years, after ten thousand documents and million words of evidence that kept the accused in the Drill Hall for a full year. The 61 had been arrested in Nazi-style at 4am blitz raids and imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort, where attempts were made to deny them visits by friends and legal advisors. Bail was refused, and only granted later on condition that they surrendered their passports, reported weekly to the police, and did not attend gatherings.
"During the year that they sat in the Drill Hall (on benches) in a case which according to them to the AG contained no evidence against them, they lost their jobs and their livelihood and became dependent on the Treason Trial Defence Fund.
"Now, without any compensation for the `mistake`, they must struggle to find new jobs and fight their way out of debt...
"More puzzling than the releases themselves were the names of some of those selected to be set free. In his opening address the prosecutor made it clear his main allegation would be that launching the Freedom Charter was an act of treason. Yet among those released was Chief AJ Lutuli one of the sponsors of the Charter." (Africa South Vol 2 No 4, July-Sept 1958)
The State in the 1956 Treason Trial closed its case on 10 March 1960, allowing the defence to reply to the treason charges after four years. The first witness for the defence was Dr Conco on 14 March 1960. Charges were withdrawn against him in December 1957. Baba was the second witness on 21 March 1960.
"That very day at the Old Synagogue in Pretoria, the defence in the Treason Trial had called Chief Albert Luthuli as its second witness. It was while he was giving evidence on the non-violent policies of the ANC that the first reports of the Sharpeville massacre came through. In response to a question from Maisels, Luthuli counselled restraint and a peaceful approach on all sides, but because of the violent outbreak the whole trial had taken on a new and quite different perspective. There was more drama to follow." (Bram Fischer by Stephen Clingman, p.253)
So let us look at this period and examine the events that Baba as president of the ANC, and presently a defence witness, had to confront:
This was a very difficult situation for the ANC to sustain a non-violent struggle to secure our freedom from the inordinate violence perpetrated against people of colour. All our peaceful protests were met with violence from the state.
How Baba was able to stand alone in the witness box in defence of the last 30 of his comrades on trial for treason in these circumstances, is for me, the defining moment of his life.
He was on his own facing the prosecutor and his own counsel without the support of the executive of the ANC. How ably he conducted himself was borne out by the acquittal of all. Baba came through for all of us. Halala Baba!
So who was this man? Was he nurtured in the filth of colonialism and apartheid? Was this the man who led us on the road to our freedom from the years 1952 to 1967 as president of the ANC?
Baba was born in 1898 in Southern Rhodesia at the Solusia Mission Station to his mother, Mtonya Luthuli, born Gumede, and his missionary father, John Bunyan Luthuli of Groutville.
He passed Standard Four in 1914 and went to boarding schools until Standard Six. At Edendale, a Methodist institution, he joined the Teacher Training Department, graduating in 1917. He taught for two years as head of an intermediate school and went to Adams college in 1920 as a teacher and acted as College Choir Master. Singing has always walked with us on the road to our freedom.
Baba`s father, John Bunyan, was the second son of Ntaba Luthuli, a convert and follower of Rev Aldin Groutville of the American Board Mission, who with three other missionaries was sent out in 1835 to do missionary work among the Zulus.
Rev Groutville came to South and established himself in what became known as Groutville Mission Station. It is officially known as Umvoti Mission Reserve.
Baba`s grandfather, Ntaba, was the second chief of the Groutville community. Chieftainship in the Umvoti Mission was elective - it was not hereditary. In 1935, at the invitation of some elders of the tribe, Baba stood as candidate and won. Once elected you may be chief for life, unless you voluntarily resign or be deposed by the government on its own initiative or at the request of the people. The government took away his chieftainship after the Defiance Campaign.
In his student days, he worked both in the Young Men`s Christian Association and the Student`s Christian Association, joining the church in 1918, when he was a teacher. For two years Baba was the President of the Natal Africa Teacher`s Union, dealing with poor wages and conditions of service of teachers.
He resigned from Adams College in 1935 and took up his duties as Chief in Groutville on 1 January 1936. With the assistance of the elders of the tribe he formed the Groutville Bantu Cane Planters Association, with 200 members. They were mainly small growers with holdings of an average of five acres each.
In an interview Baba said that holding the position as Chief introduced him directly to African life, their poverty, and the repressive laws under which they lived.
He knew about the ANC as a teacher. His uncle, Chief Martin Luthuli, was a member. It was only when he became Chief that he became a member of ANC. In 1938, he was a delegate to the International Missionary Conference in Madras (now Chennai) in India.
Baba remembers he joined the ANC in 1945 when Dr Dube, the Natal President, was bed-ridden from a stroke that incapacitated him until his death in 1946.
He was on the Natives` Representative Council (NRC) when the state armoury was used to brutally suppress the miner`s strike in 1946. Many were killed and hundreds were wounded when 7,000 miners went on strike.
Chief Luthuli, ZK Matthews and others in the NRC, resigned and brought about the NRC`s demise.
In 1948 Baba had a successful visit to the USA funded by the Church. In 1949 Baba worked with the American Board Mission to review courses at Adams College. The committee was involved in a protracted dispute over whether to reduce the theological content of the courses for African pastors and add new courses on social content, including the possibility of sending some pastors to the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg.
In May 1951 Baba stood against AWG Champion for the Natal presidency of the ANC and won, despite his lack of political profile. In 1949 the National body (ANC) had passed a programme of action, through which the ANC would pursue the freedom struggle by militant but non-violent methods. It was therefore a testing time for Baba when the planning for the 1952 Defiance Campaign began. Prosecuting this defiance countrywide was both a testing and a fruitful time. The ANC grew in numbers and stature.
At the ANC National Conference in December 1952 Baba was nominated to the Presidency. Dr Moroka too sought re-election, but it was Baba who won. Baba held this position until the ANC`s banning in 1960 and until his death in 1967.
The banning of the ANC did not put an end to political activity. There were several stay-at-home protests, both national and local; trade union activity; the one-pound-a-day campaign; there were bus boycotts over the increase of one penny. On trade union activity and the ANC, Baba said: "I am glad that SACTU [South Africa Congress of Trade Unions] has not listened to the ill advice that they should not be interested in politics. There is a Zulu saying that if you are pricked by a thorn you also have to use a thorn to get it out. Workers are oppressed by political action, they must take political action in reply."
Since 1953 and for most of his presidency Baba was under banning orders. His banning orders were two-fold. He was banned from attending gatherings. (He was billed to speak at the protest meetings of Sophiatown, but orders prevented his presence. Walter Sisulu read his message to the meeting. So too, many other meetings.) He was also confined to the magisterial area of lower Tugela in Natal. In effect he was bound by a radius of 15 miles. This was an incredible cruelty for Baba, who was ill and needed urgent medical care at times.
During his banning orders, I was able to see him through the kind services of EV Mohamed of the Liberal Party. Indians were not allowed to enter the trust lands of Zululand. We needed to send parcels of food to the starving banished in Natal. At its height we had about 16 banished scattered in Zululand. To our eternal shame, Chief William Sekhukhune of Sekhukhuneland died from starvation just beyond Mandini. Baba undertook to forward food as soon as transport was available.
There is much written about the supposedly anti-communist views of Chief Luthuli, but he saw me several times while both he and I were banned, at great cost to himself if discovered. He knew that I was not a Christian, not a Hindu, but a Communist.
He also sent a message to Sadie Forman, wife of Lionel Forman, before Lionel died on the operating theatre while undergoing heart surgery, on 19 October 1959. Lionel declared: "Tell the Treason court (he and Baba were treason trialists in the 1956 Trial) we`ll achieve freedom in the lifetime of Karl, Frank and Sara (his children) - and you Sadie - whether they like it or not. Forward to the total abolition of the colour bar - Forward to communism in South Africa."
From Chief Luthuli, President of the African National Congress, to Sadie Forman: "On behalf of the African people I express to you deepest sympathy on (the) passing of your husband. His loss will be deeply felt by his family and all freedom-loving people. His courageous stand in the freedom struggle will always inspire us."
Baba married Nokukhanya Bhengu, a teacher and granddaughter of clan chief Ndlokolo of the Bhengus, in 1927. They had seven children: Fana Hugh, Albertina, Thandeka, Smangele, Thembi, Christian Boy and Sibusiso.
Incidentally when Baba died on the 21 July 1967, the next issue of Drum had his photograph on the cover. I had a copy on my desk and photographed my children at the desk to send it to their father on Robben Island. Govan Mbeki saw the copy of Drum and asked to keep the photo.
Thank you Baba! It is 40 years since you left our shores and while we grieve your loss, we are proud to have walked with you in the trenches of the struggle with you! Hamba Kahle Baba!
* PHYLLIS NAIDOO is a veteran of the ANC and a member of the Order of Luthuli.
by Thabo Mbeki
Today, we celebrate the life, the work, the struggle and philosophy of one of the greatest leaders of our country. As we know, Chief Albert Luthuli was an educator, a leader within his church, a traditional leader, a President of the African National Congress and also the first African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his outstanding efforts for the cause of human freedom, human dignity, non-racialism, democracy and peace.
Today, many people across the world appreciate the fact that the final stage of our liberation was marked by freedom fighters and oppressors sitting down at the same table to hammer out a settlement that buried the apartheid demon and established a society based on the ideals of equality, non-racialism, non-sexism and democracy. Chief Albert Luthuli had cherished this outcome throughout his lifetime. Undoubtedly it is therefore part of the legacy that he bequeathed to our country and people.
The defining moments of Chief Luthuli`s leadership were during the 1950s, a decade marked by militant mass struggles, including the Defiance Campaign, general strikes, bus boycotts, the potato boycott, mass campaigns against passes for women, the struggles against Bantu Education, workers` struggles for better wages and better working conditions and many other mass struggles of our people.
The 1950s also witnessed the historic process of the independence of Africans from colonialism and the rollback of the outcomes produced by the European Scramble for Africa, which resulted in our continent being shared by the imperial powers. The Suez crisis of 1956 was a clear indication that the gunboat diplomacy of a previous era was no longer an option for the Western powers. The independence of Africa gathered momentum, when first Ghana became free in 1957, then Guinea in 1958 and subsequently a number of African countries gained their independence.
It was during this time of mass struggles in our country and the collapse of the colonial system, that the rare gift of the leadership of Albert Luthuli came to the fore. Luthuli was a man of immense dignity and noble bearing. His love of humanity was matched by his intolerance of racial bigotry and oppression.
During an adult life taken up with political activism, and on the basis of his strong Christian convictions, he forged a democratic political outlook that embraced people of all colours, races and creeds as members of the human family.
The indestructible legacy that Chief Luthuli has left for all of us is the unwavering dedication to the total liberation of his people and the indomitable will to undertake seemingly impossible tasks to achieve this objective.
In a speech to the 22nd Biennial Conference of the South African Indian Congress in 1956, Chief Luthuli quoted one of his favourite poems, The Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow wrote:
"Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o`er life`s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again."
After quoting Longfellow, Chief Luthuli issued this challenge to the delegates:
"The challenge to you and all of us who love and value liberty is to build a tradition that will be a Statue OF Liberty in the Union of South Africa. We have to do this in the face of strong gales that make the task of building and maintaining this Statue of Freedom a most hazardous undertaking fraught with dangers that are capable of destroying us and the tradition of liberty we would be building. The cause is so worthwhile that any risks and dangers confronting its realisation sink into insignificance."
Indeed, today, as we remember this great African leader, we dare say that the better life that we are building after attaining the freedom that Luthuli and many others fought so hard to achieve, must be real, as the poet said.
I am confident that through our combined efforts, together we can make the lives of our people sublime and magnificent, uplifting particularly those who occupy the lowest rung in our social order. In doing so, and as the poet said, we will emulate AJ Luthuli in leaving behind us the `footprints on the sands of time`.
We are blessed that we have the opportunity to follow on those footprints, because the wise words he uttered in 1956 are still very relevant today. We agree with his call that all of us who value liberty have to build a tradition that will be a statue of liberty in our country.
As we work for the total transformation of our country into a truly non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous democracy, his prophetic words become more relevant because indeed we are engaged in the task of building a statue of liberty, "in the face of strong gales that make the task of building and maintaining this Statue of Freedom a most hazardous undertaking fraught with dangers that are capable of destroying us and the tradition of liberty we would be building".
Clearly, Chief Luthuli knew that as he, during his time, confronted strong gales that made the task of achieving freedom difficult, these strong gales would still rage, even if in different forms, to confront those whose task would be to ensure that the freedom that we won after a long and bitter struggle, is entrenched and consolidated.
Accordingly, his words of 1956 were directed both to his audience and to all of us, that we cannot and must not hesitate and falter in the pursuit of the transformation path that will clearly consolidate our freedom because, "the cause is so worthwhile that any risks and dangers confronting its realisation sink into insignificance".
In the same poem Chief Luthuli quoted, Longfellow says:
"Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait."
We, who are here today, should be able to say to Chief Albert Luthuli that we are working in such a manner that `each tomorrow` will undoubtedly find us `farther than today`; that as we celebrate our decade of freedom we are able to say, confidently and without any contradiction, that the lives of our people are better than they were ten years ago.
Thus we must accelerate the process of transformation such that when we report at the end of the second decade of our freedom, we should be able to say confidently and without any contradiction that the lives of our people are much better than they were in 2004.
In a message to "Drum" magazine while he was in Oslo, Norway, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Chief Luthuli said: "My prayer is that the day will soon come when all my people will share in the freedom and the good things of life which are all around me as I write."
Chief Luthuli did not live to see that day, which came on 27 April 1994. But those of us who had the privilege to experience that day have a duty not to betray the struggle that defined the life of Chief Luthuli.
As we do all the things that we must do and as we build and maintain the Statue of Freedom that Chief Albert Luthuli referred to, we will like Henry Longfellow say:
"Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait."
* THABO MBEKI is President of the African National Congress. This is an extract from an address on the occasion of the unveiling of the Luthuli Legacy Project, 21 August 2004.
by Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa
"I saw no real conflict in my dual leadership of my people: as chief and political leader in Congress. I saw no reason to resign from either... I do not wish to challenge my dismissal, but I would like to suggest that in the interests of the institution of chieftainship in these modern times of democracy, the government should define more precisely and make more widely known the status, functions and privileges of chiefs. My view has been, and still is, that a chief is primarily a servant of his people. He is the voice of his people... Unlike a Native Commissioner, he is part and parcel of his tribe, and not a local agent of government... It is inconceivable how chiefs could effectively serve the wider and common interest of their own tribe without cooperating with other leaders of the people, both the natural leaders (chiefs) and leaders elected democratically by the people themselves..."
The above is an extract from a public statement that was made by Nkosi Luthuli, and jointly issued by the African National Congress and the Natal Indian Congress, in reaction to his dismissal by the National Party government from his position as the democratically elected traditional leader of aMakholwa community of Mvoti Mission Reserve, Groutville, Stanger, in November 1952.
Nkosi Luthuli was the last of the African National Congress presidents to lead the organisation while it was legally able to operate and until it was banned. He himself was still banned, but still president, when he was killed by a train on 21 July 1967. Oliver Reginald Tambo, who had hitherto been deputy president of the ANC, was subsequently elected president. When the liberation movement was unbanned by the National Party regime in 1990, Nkosi Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (A! Dalibhunga) was duly elected president. He was later followed by iZizi, Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, as leader of this gigantic movement. The ANC membership and the entire people of the democratic Republic of South Africa look forward to the election of the next ANC president in December 2007, in Polokwane, Limpopo.
This year, 2007, marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of Nkosi Luthuli. He was sixty-nine years of age when he died as a result of being run over by a train while crossing a railway line in his residential area of Groutville. The National Party regime claimed that his eyesight was failing at the time; yet his family insists that he could see and could hear quite well. He was feared by the regime and suspicions abound that the government must have had a hand in what is considered a mysterious death. It was also a time when many opponents of the regime were disappearing and being later found dead in the sugar cane fields.
Madlanduna - his clan name - was the epitome of a true African leader. He was a man of the people in the full sense of the word - a Christian, an educationist, a music and sports lover, a farmer, a non-racialist, a warrior, a peace-lover, a nationalist, a statesman and a traditional leader. Because of these attributes he was, simultaneously and variously, and in equal measure, admired, loathed, feared and revered by his supporters and opponents. Yet in spite of all this, he had no airs, no sense of self-importance, humble yet proud.
Whenever Luthuli assumed his positions of leadership it was almost always at the behest of those with whom he interacted. He did not campaign to be elected. Greatness was thrust upon him. People had to prevail upon him to take up positions of leadership. On one occasion he found himself called upon to assume the leadership of the ANC in Natal, to replace Dr Langalibalele Dube (uMafukuzela), who had recently suffered a stroke. The person appointed by Dube to act on his behalf was unable to conduct the meeting in question and, to avoid an imminent premature and chaotic closure of the meeting, Madlanduna took over the chair, called for order, asked for the appointment of a chairman, and was duly elected to do the honours. That was how he began to be leader of the Congress (as he preferred to call the ANC).
The position of traditional leader of aMakholwa at the Mvoti Mission Reserve was an elective, as opposed to a hereditary, one. This was a community made up of Christian converts who came from various surrounding Zulu communities under their respective traditional leaders. The traditional leader of the land in which this community resided was prevailed upon by the missionaries to facilitate the selection of a traditional leader to rule over the converts (amakholwa). The first leader appointed by the traditional leader could not last for long, apparently due to the fact that, as a non-convert, he was at variance with the acquired values of his wards. From then hence the community elected four of its six leaders from the House of Luthuli.
When Luthuli was nominated to be inkosi he was a teacher at Adams College. Madlanduna accepted nomination and was duly elected although as inkosi his stipend was far lower than the salary he earned as a teacher. Of course, it took him five years to accept the call to be traditional leader, due also to the fact that at the time he was a young man starting a family and already with two young children. He saw the cut in salary as a necessary sacrifice for the greater cause of giving enlightened leadership to his people. As traditional leader he continued to interact with Mafukuzela in his capacity as leader of Congress, participating as the latter did in the affairs of the Zulu kingdom as adviser to the king, and at another stage as a member of the Natives` Representative Council.
He himself was quite close to the Zulu royal house and other traditional leaders of the province. Current Zulu monarch, King Zwelithini, tells of the story when once Luthuli was visiting his father, King Nyangayezizwe Cyprian, the Special Branch came looking for him. The king hid him under his bed. The police searched everywhere, including the king`s bedroom, but could not find him.
When at a later stage he himself became a member of the Natives` Representative Council (NRC), he did not hesitate to support motions that precipitated its demise. Traditional leaders and prominent African national leaders were under pressure from government to participate in the NRC. This was, of course, a dummy body, famously referred to as a "toy telephone". It was meant to hoodwink Africans into believing that it was a forum that allowed their leaders to participate in government. Luthuli played no small part in ensuring that it died a natural death.
As traditional leader Madlanduna was further exposed to the duplicity and racist condescension of government officials. He was a farmer who saw himself as a commercial cane grower. He encouraged his people to immerse themselves in agriculture and to this end facilitated the formation of various cane-growers associations throughout Natal and Zululand. The present South African Sugar Association owes its origins to him.
He was always an elected leader. Agricultural demonstrators, equivalents of present-day extension officers, who were meant to support and mentor Africans to become successful farmers, did all they could to undermine Luthuli`s efforts. They would come during the ploughing and planting seasons to advise the farmers on the best ways of farming, leave them and not return until after the season of harvest, having failed to train them on how to grow the crops. Those who managed to bring out a good crop were not assisted to get the harvest to profitable markets. It was because of Madlanduna`s leadership that farmers managed to register some successes with their endeavours.
Because of his leadership attributes Luthuli never had time to rest. He was devoted to his wife, Nokukhanya, and doted on his children. Yet, he was always called away from home. In Mam`uNokukhanya, born Bhengu of the Ngcolosi clan, Luthuli had a highly intelligent, hard-working wife. She walked the whole distance of struggle with him. They were one in thought and shared the same values and convictions about life and the struggle.
As a Christian he held leadership positions in his church. He interacted with various denominations through their leaders as members of the Christian Council of South Africa. The religious wing of the National Party government, the Dutch Reformed Church, later broke away from this Council because of its efforts at non-racialism, manifesting themselves as they did by the African, Coloured and Indian membership. Its leaders were so racist that on one occasion one of them reluctantly shook an Indian leader`s hand while pointedly avoiding that of Luthuli. The racism of the white Christian leaders would follow them even when they attended international conferences abroad. They would travel first class while their black compatriots were crammed in second class compartments. Prayers had accordingly, and by direction of their white leaders, to be conducted separately.
In spite of all the negativity of many of his fellow Christian leaders Luthuli never despaired. He continued to have the faith that some day they would see the folly of their ways and realise that their conduct was in violation of the very principles their religion espoused.
Humble though he was, Luthuli was a charismatic leader. Wherever he went throngs of people would come out to see him, to listen to him, to admire him, to marvel at him. He was called upon to address all sorts of meetings; his audiences would be made up of people of different races. They all held him in awe. Naturally, this did not sit well with the oppressors of the time. They saw him as a dangerous man who had to be contained.
The fear and loathing on the part of the regime became worse especially when Luthuli was elected president of the ANC. Even when he was serving one or the other of the many banning orders, people continued to revere him as their leader. On one occasion he visited his alma mater, Adams College, while he was thus banned. He could not address the students even though he was brought to the school assembly by the principal. Disappointed though they were that they could not listen to him speak, their enthusiasm for his presence was not dampened as they accompanied him for all of a distance of some two hundred metres as he silently walked to his car.
Such adulation was not limited to the student population. Having addressed a meeting of Indian traders in the central business district of Durban, he found the route leading to the airport lined with people of all races, having formed themselves into a guard of honour, a matter about which the authorities could do nothing except to ensure that it was orderly. In his autobiography, "Let My People Go" he manages, in his hallmark modesty, to narrate of instances where, when getting out of a train, in Johannesburg or Durban, he would find himself moving for metres on end, without touching the ground, as he would be held shoulder high by supporters who could not contain their jubilation.
Luthuli never campaigned for the leadership positions he held. Both for the Natal and national leadership of the Congress he made it clear that he would accept nomination on condition that he would not be involved in leadership squabbles. It was in 1952, the year of the Defiance Campaign, that he was elected President-General of the ANC. These were turbulent times, times when the movement was tackling government head-on, openly challenging it to repeal its unjust racist laws.
It became clear that his was to be an untenable position seeing that, as a traditional leader, he was a functionary of the state. He was, however, prepared for the worst as he had earlier had a visit from senior government officials, who called on him to make up his mind on whether he would be traditional leader or choose to be Congress leader. He knew what his fate would be even as he argued with the Native Affairs officials that he did not discuss Congress affairs in his tribal council even when others did. Rather than choose he allowed the government to make its own decision. Since it could not force him out of Congress the regime stripped him of his position as traditional leader.
By this time he was no longer just inkosi of aMakholwa, but was the people`s Chief at a national level. Till the day he died he remained the chief of the people. It was in part due to his position as traditional leader that he had joined the ANC. His duties exposed him to more of the atrocities endured by his people at the hands of the apartheid regime. He was intent on fighting injustice through his membership and leadership of Congress.
It is a matter of public record that Nkosi Luthuli was awarded the internationally esteemed Nobel Peace Prize because of his continued belief in the pursuance of the goal of freedom, justice and democracy even in the face of the most brutal of regimes that ever existed on earth. He was the first African to receive such an award. In this way he set the scene for Nelson Mandela, the founder of the ANC military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, to follow.
Naturally, there are lessons to be learnt from Madlanduna`s experiences as the kind of leader that he was. From every facet of human endeavour, be it as a politician, a farmer, a teacher, a traditional leader, a religious leader, a sportsman, a parent or a husband, we can all learn how to be the ideal leader. In whatever field he operated he gave all of himself, with little consideration to himself.
The ANC continues to falter on the question of traditional leadership. This is so despite the many advances made by the democratic government to accommodate the concerns of the institution and its adherents. Even such advances appear to be made grudgingly. Yet, this is an institution that holds the greatest potential to bring about service delivery to the rural masses. Many social malcontents continue to abuse our new-found democracy and freedom, confusing freedom with license to commit acts of immorality; sometimes doing so under the pretext that such conduct is sanctioned by culture and custom. We have in mind here those who abuse women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Traditional leaders are best placed to mobilise communities by instilling in the people morally and culturally acceptable modes of conduct.
Our democratic space has by now convinced the majority of even the most hardened of sceptics that ubukhosi (the institution of traditional leadership) is here to stay. It is not a mere phase in the development of a people. The government has by law established Houses of Traditional Leaders nationally, provincially and, in some provinces, notably KwaZulu Natal, locally. It has further entrenched its role in local government through the transformation of tribal authorities into democratic Traditional Councils. These structures should not be allowed to become the "toy telephones" of old. Suitably equipped they are strategic partners in bringing government and its services literally closer to the people.
Traditional councils should be the civic centres of the rural masses. It should not be necessary for the people to travel to nearby towns, at great expense, to access government services. Each department of state must have an office within the traditional council establishment for the delivery of services long denied rural communities. Mobile units are not the ideal solution.
Importantly, ubukhosi must be used to function as an instrument of peace and unity. Traditional leaders of the same rank must be accorded equal treatment. After all South Africa is not a federal state. It should not be that, for instance, the king of the Zulu is treated differently from those of the Venda, the Mpondo, the Pedi, the Ndebele, the Thembu, the Xhosa, etc. Such differentiation breeds unnecessary resentment on the part of members and traditional leaders of other ethnic groups. Let it be clear that we are not calling for a diminution of the status of the Zulu king, but more for an equal treatment of leaders of the same rank. The same principle applies with respect to traditional leaders of other ranks, namely, chiefs and headmen.
Our constitution continues to act as if African courts of justice, under the aegis of ubukhosi, do not exist. The chapter dealing with the judiciary makes no reference whatsoever to the indigenous system of justice administration. Naturally, as the ruling party, the ANC bears the responsibility to correct this anomaly. These courts provide an indispensable service to millions of our people living in the rural areas, a service which they would otherwise be denied if it were not for traditional leaders. The idea of an African renaissance will remain an illusion if we do not build on the systems that already exist within our communities. The ANC must assist President Thabo Mbeki in his endeavours to give a deserved place to this institution, both here at home and abroad.
Let it be necessary no more, in this era of modern democracy, for traditional leaders to ask for a definition of their status, functions and privileges. Let them continue to be servants of their people, their voice, alongside of that of democratically elected leaders.
Let it not be forgotten either that the founding fathers of the ANC solicited and obtained the support of the traditional leaders of the time when they conceived of the idea of the formation of the Parliament of the People, the ANC. My king, Dalindyebo, son of Ngangelizwe, donated about fifty head of cattle to be slaughtered in Bloemfontein for the entertainment of the delegates on the occasion of the founding of the organisation on 8 January 1912. Zulu king Din`uZulu was made Honorary President as a show of the respect accorded to traditional leadership.
It is no insignificant coincidence that the first president of the ANC, Dr Dube, uMafukuzela, was himself associated with ubukhosi of amaQadi clan, just as the current one is associated with that of amaZizi. Need I say anything about Madlanduna and Madiba, whose grandson has just been anointed to take up the position from which his great-grandfather was deposed by the English colonial administrators in a fashion similar to that used against Luthuli?
The ANC and traditional leaders are bound by an unbroken umbilical cord. They both are a people`s heritage that must be guarded with jealousy. The people are their source of strength and legitimacy. Accordingly even in the forthcoming National Conference let us allow the people, in the ethos of Luthuli, to be the ones whose voice is final. Most of what I have come to know of President Luthuli is contained in his autobiography "Let My People Go". It is recommended reading for ANC members in general and National Conference delegates in particular.
South Africa is indeed eternally indebted for the freedom we enjoy to, among others, uMashisa, uMadlanduna, um`edla insikazi usuka elambile, uDonda, uNonopha, uZinyane likaJohn kaNtaba!
* NKOSI PHATHEKILE HOLOMISA (A! Dilizintaba) is an ANC Member of Parliament and President of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA).
by Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Fate afforded me the historical opportunity of meeting Chief Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli and receiving him on numerous occasions at my tiny three-roomed house in Orlando West around 1958.
The very first time I received him at my home was one of those days when Comrade Madiba would disappear for hours on end and turn up with ten or more people without any warning. His routine was to call and report that he was ten minutes away and that I should prepare dinner for his colleagues and himself. No amount of protesting would change this situation.
On this occasion Chief Luthuli arrived with Walter Sisulu, JB Marks, Moses Kotane and Dan Tloome. Within minutes of their arrival they were joined by ten or more leaders of the ANC. I served dinner, but before they would eat Chief Luthuli would say a prayer. I will not mention which of the other men felt uncomfortable during this for they too had their beliefs. When proceedings were through and tummies filled, they would be closeted and thoroughly engaged in our small lounge until the early hours of the morning.
Comrade Madiba did not want to leave me in the house alone at that time, so everybody left except Chief Luthuli. When it was time we then drove him to Dube. On our arrival, as I stepped back and stared I heaved a sigh of relief when he majestically stepped out of our car, an old Chevrolet. It dawned on me that I had been in the presence of a great man. His stature alone exemplified the best characteristics of a born leader, who commanded so much weight and dignity without uttering a word.
When he walked into the house I naturally stood to attention; it seemed to be improper protocol to sit down before him. He had a warm fatherly smile that flashed very white teeth. He greeted me like his own daughter and I inwardly crumbled with reassurance.
He did not have to say anything; he made me feel safe and protected. His fearless disposition exuded inspiration that said to me this was my leader.
Such was Chief Luthuli`s presence and persona, that you felt so inspired and fuelled with energy that indeed we would face the enemy head on. I knew then that we would liberate ourselves from apartheid and colonialism, mentally and physically. Chief Luthuli personified the story of South Africa and Africa. To have been led by him as President the fate of the ANC was predictable. We all knew then that the ANC would be in government one day.
This was during the late-1950s, a period of unprecedented militant mass struggle after the defiance campaign, general strikes, potato boycott, mass campaigns against the extension of the pass laws to African women, the struggles against Bantu Education, workers striking for better wages, and numerous other struggles. The rare gift of Chief Albert Luthuli`s leadership was the inspiration for the heightened militancy of mass struggles, coupled with his immense dignity and noble bearing.
His strong Christian conviction helped swell the ranks of the organisation, thus strengthening and building the foundations of the ANC as a people`s revolutionary movement.
I was to see Chief Luthuli on numerous occasions at the then Drill Hall where the 1956 Treason Trial took place. He forged a democratic political outlook that was to give birth to our current democracy as he embraced people of all colours as members of the human family. His commitment to the African Diaspora and indeed to all humanity was part of his exceptional leadership. Chief Luthuli was a forerunner of positive action, a leader whose vision was beyond the political horizons of those times.
He saw us at our lowest point; killed, banished, detained, stripped of manhood, stripped of womanhood, our childhood innocence trampled and degraded. He saw us falling, wandering in the darkness of ignorance, detached from our culture and from our noblest of histories loss.
He hoisted us all upon his shoulders
And stood up for us.
Whether reviled by the enemy or revered,
He stood up for us,
Whether persecuted or praised,
He stood up for us,
Whether criticised or acclaimed,
Chief Luthuli gave up his chieftaincy
And stood up for us.
Our admiration and respect for Chief Luthuli was to propel us to challenge the system with all our might at the height of apartheid. I remembered how Madiba agonised over his mission when he returned to the underground as the Black Pimpernel. I had seen him before he went to visit Chief Luthuli to consult him about the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Madiba and Walter Sisulu were very worried about Chief Luthuli`s possible reaction, as a Christian, to the idea of the armed struggle.
We used to recite underground the Chief`s response. Madiba told me of how dramatic his reply was. Chief Luthuli kept quiet for a long time and then declared, "I am an African! When a man attacks my kraal, I take a spear and defend my kraal!"
Thus Umkhonto we Sizwe was born and baptised. Chief Luthuli was this magnificent humanitarian who was accommodating of everyone`s ideas, empowering future leaders as he engaged all in dialogue.
When Chief Luthuli was awarded the Noble Peace Prize, it was a fitting and well deserved international tribute. I recall with nostalgia how we went to the then Jan Smuts Airport in our thousands to support Albert Luthuli on his achievement. Since he was banned from leaving the airport to interact with the masses all he could do was wave to his people as he boarded the plane to Switzerland.
In full view we carried placards that read "We Stand by our Leaders". He was the pride of the nation, the first South African to earn a Noble Peace Prize.
We subsequently learnt from our colleagues in London that Chief Luthuli was greeted by a small group of exiles, students and anti-apartheid campaigners, who had assembled at Heathrow Airport to catch a glimpse of Chief Luthuli and Mama Nokukhanye, Chief Luthuli`s wife. They too were victims. The South African racist regime had given the Luthulis special passports on condition that he did not engage in any political activities. He was forced to pass on without speaking to his people.
For Chief Luthuli, personal sacrifice was part of the resounding assertion of his moral authority. He resigned from the teaching profession when he was democratically elected Chief of the Umvoti Mission reserve in 1936. Chief Luthuli continued to be a role model to all those who shared his vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa, a country that was beset by racial divisions, religious intolerance and fear. He was elected to the Presidency of the Natal ANC. The apartheid regime immediately demanded that he choose between his chieftaincy and his political activities. When he refused to resign from either, he was deposed as Chief by the government, but the people continued to address him as Chief, as we still do. After all, that was his traditional title.
Professor Gwendolyn Carter captured what would be identified in the modern language as the `Meaning of Luthuli` in his response to the government`s denial of his traditional authority. The famous response was, "Who will deny that thirty years of my life I have been knocking in vain, patiently, moderately and modestly, at a closed and barred door...?"
"As for myself, with a full sense of responsibility and a clear conviction, I decided to remain in the struggle for extending democratic rights and responsibilities to all sections of the South African community. I have embraced the non-violent passive resistance techniques in fighting for freedom because I am convinced it is the only non-revolutionary, legitimate and humane way, that could be used by people denied, as we are, effective constitutional means to further aspirations...
It is inevitable that in working for Freedom some families must take the lead and suffer. The Road to Freedom is via the Cross."
It was after this statement that Chief Luthuli was elected President-General of the African National Congress, a post he held until his death in 1967. The apartheid regime was so petty that it protested against the election of Chief Luthuli and insisted that it was subversive to give him his traditional title since the title was taken away from him.
I recall that in 1958, Chief Luthuli made the most famous call that turned the tide of history forever. He called for the international boycott of the apartheid regime. This call mobilised the international community. The apartheid regime was to find itself besieged by protests in London, the United States, and other places, mostly protests by students, intellectuals and anti-apartheid movements. In the same year Chief Luthuli announced the ANC`s human and humanising values of non-racialism, freedom and democracy.
It could be that this was the call that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, against a ruthless and violent regime.
Chief Luthuli favoured non-violent means of struggle against apartheid. He advocated economic sanctions against the apartheid regime as a way to advance a peaceful transition. It was the pressure of events, the state of emergency, deaths in detention, banning and banishments, that decided him.
Chief Luthuli relented. He realised that some measure of force was inevitable. Because of his devout Christian convictions, Chief Luthuli still held out hope for a peaceful resolution through negotiations.
The foundation for Chief Luthuli`s endorsement of the armed struggle was cemented by the violent apartheid state. Chief Luthuli`s prophecy of a peaceful change in South Africa before the end of the century was to be realised years later.
Tragedy came knocking and when Chief Luthuli was killed, a heavy dark cloud hung over South Africa, and we knew that South Africa would never be the same. Inspired and forever motivated we strive for the perfection and excellence that leaders such as Chief Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli envisioned for South Africa. Chief Luthuli affirmed the principle of non-racialism as contained in the Freedom Charter and eventually enshrined in the Constitution of a democratic South Africa.
For me, the Chief Luthuli I knew personally lives in our home, Chief Albert Luthuli House, our national headquarters. His memory is alive. If I had more space I would have loved to write about how Chief Luthuli taught us to build a strong ANC at grassroots level, the M-Plan, the door-to-door campaign, as the best way of building branches, how we raised funds at branch level. Our historians should take up this challenge for the sake of our future generations. As the old saying goes, "if the lions do not tell their story, the hunters will!"
I am grateful for the opportunity to share these wonderful memories, which were buried in my subconscious mind. Travelling down memory lane is sometimes a hurtful, but healing experience. This was not one of those. This was a healing exercise.
* NOMZAMO WINNIE MADIKIZELA-MANDELA is a former President of the ANC Women`s League and former member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC).
by Sandile Sijake
The occasion of the 40th anniversary of Chief Albert Luthuli`s passing affords all South Africans a moment to reflect on his aspirations, as enshrined in the Freedom Charter.
South Africans will remember this day mindful that Chief Luthuli so loved us all, the ANC and its programme, to the extent that he applied to it a holistic approach. He once observed that "the inadequacy of discussions of the Charter or the adoption of the economic clauses were sufficiently important to bring a split in the ANC".
We seize this opportunity with both hands as we look at the present day South African political, social and economic landscape. It allows us that unique moment when we make an appraisal of what the struggles for which so many perished, some got disabled and others got maimed beyond healing, was all about. Traditionally and naturally any examination of a people`s activities with a purpose to improve the ANC is not only welcome but also necessary if it is to maintain its original founding impulse.
This places South Africans from all walks of life in a position to furnish answers to questions Chief Luthuli and other ancestors pose to us living generations: What has the fourteen-year old miracle and incredible victory brought to South Africans and mainly black South African as a prime beneficiary in accordance with the principles central to the ANC policies, the Congress Movement and the people of South Africa.
In the history of South Africa`s struggle for social, economic, cultural and political emancipation, July 1967 is also the month during which we in the ANC finalised the planning for the Wankie and Sipolilo operations. These operations were undertaken by a component of the Luthuli Detachment together with Zimbabwe African People`s Union (ZAPU) forces. These are men and women who before leaving South Africa for military training abroad had rubbed shoulders with Chief Luthuli and made an equally sterling contribution to our current democracy.
Chief Luthuli had this to say on the courage of these cadres; "brave just men whom no one can blame for seeking justice by the use of violent methods; nor could they be blamed if they tried to create an organised force to ultimately establish peace and racial harmony. They represent the highest in morality and ethics in the South African political struggle". The timing of Chief Luthuli`s death remains a mystery to the members of his MK Detachment.
The unique quality that Chief Luthuli left us was to live and practise the philosophy of ubuntu. In his autobiography we read that the country is owned by all its inhabitants and as such they must participate in the ownership and government thereof. Our government claims that our democracy is striving towards participatory government not merely by an act of voting alone. This claim should be highly appreciated, although it is silent on the critical question of who owns South Africa, the wealth beneath the soil and marine resources at present. The question lingers on as to on whose behalf are the people participating in the governing of the country. How do we see democracy at its best flourishing in the slums and in an environment condemned to perpetual insecurity, where people do not have the wherewithal to life?
In the second half of the last century there have arisen only two countries that have remained true to the course of comprehensively empowering their respective citizens, namely Cuba and Guinea. Would it not be appropriate for us to believe that Chief Luthuli a man of vision and courage would have led us in South Africa to become the third country? In Stanger he empowered and encouraged the cane subsistence farmers and others to work the small plots of land made available to them.
In posing these questions we are mindful of the fact that Chief Luthuli developed a high level of consciousness, which ensured that he acquired the courage that grew with the dangers and challenges the South African situation exposed him to. His was the courage to introduce a human spirit to a vicious and brutal being, to put a heart in a heartless country, to uphold a human soul in a soulless man-made environment and to ensure that the sighs of all oppressed, exploited and downtrodden South Africans can be listened to, addressed and find a genuine solace and security in a people`s democratic South Africa. This was the wisdom from the man of the people across the spectrum of social class, diverse cultures, beliefs and religions.
The process of colonisation did not only take away our land but also took us off our own history, customs, culture and world outlook. To add more to this injury they immediately set to work; imposed their world outlook on present South Africa and Africa as their own history and possession. What has changed in this regard; have we not become willing agents of neo-colonialism? Have we not become victims of our own past where the appeal to humane values and ubuntu principles are merely fashionable hollow slogans?
Naturally, the colonialists set up the value systems, standards and prescriptions of what our comprehensive way of life must achieve. From that day onwards the peoples of Africa, their societies, workers, rural and farm dwellers are reduced to mere objects to be acted upon. As leaders of African regimes we seem to accept a status of being nothing more or less that mere security guards. Still at a stroke of a pen we cause violation of our helpless, vulnerable communities and poverty stricken citizens. In this respect are we not trading too long on a patience that has its own limits?
We have turned schools into impregnable fortresses to symbolise the total ostracism of the traditional role of parents in the education and upbringing of their children. The children of the poor, and the poor sections of our communities, serve as our guinea pigs. This has then become a dream in which the new curriculum has been cooked in our ghetto-oriented approach to society. Has the time not come for us in the ANC to seriously look at where we are leading this society and its people? Are we not committing gross injustices against our youths to paint their parents as abusers instead of role models? Are we not supporting a process of moral degeneration as we cause families to scatter like chaff where parental guidance and authority is viewed as an abuse? Have we not completely cut off the air supply between youth and age, child and parent?
This write up grants the obvious fact that the masses of our people are no longer bound in shackles as in the days of apartheid. However, in an attempt to deal with the multitude of challenges like inaccessible land for housing, various versions of crime, the AIDS pandemic, rampant poverty, unemployment, to list a few; should we not ask ourselves whether we have not just changed the idioms of applying the same shackles if not more stringent ones upon the same strata of the South African society?
Chief Luthuli saw and appreciated the central role trade unions were playing then and would play in future in the transformation of South Africa into a Freedom Charter-based democracy. He advocated firm support for existing trade unions and assisting in organising them where and when they were not in existence or weak. These have been the living examples of diversity and even these days when they take to the streets when they believe their appeals have fallen on deaf ears; we witness diversity in motion and united action - the true future of South Africa.
Chief Luthuli would have reminded us that the trade unions are driven by a divine discontent and have divine origins and as such cannot be permanently humanly stopped. This shall be so even where our policies are for rich South Africa first, second and third, no matter the consequences of marginalising the poor, workers, ordinary women, children and the vulnerable.
In the modern history of independent Africa only the trade unions serve as the tallest trees in our societies that are bearing the force of the strongest blasts of state winds - they naturally find their anchorage in ordinary people, the most poor and vulnerable, for whom they also take to the streets so that these strata must survive the perching winds and hunger and see another day and perhaps have a future.
Chief Luthuli contributed in the shaping of the ANC through the second phase and beginning of the third phase of our struggle. The two overlapping phases were the most difficult ones not only because they were fraught with danger but also required a united leadership able to carry the masses of the people along. He always extended the same guiding principles to all political, worker, religious and cultural organisations and institutions.
Chief Luthuli saw the role for every person in the processes that support life and believed that every person when given exposure has all the capacity and capability to champion the principles that each of us is because of other people in our community. This principle of marrying actions and responsibilities seems most important and central even to moral regeneration.
The realities of life challenged the Congress Movement then, and may be worse today. The Congress` flow was like that of a sweeping river after a heavy torrential downpour. It attracted, as it is attracting these days, characters ranging from place seekers, political clowns, splinters, saboteurs, agents provocateur to informers, even drug lords, peddlers and pushers and money launderers. Once inside, these regroup into cliques who compete in sending their paid foot soldiers to recruit members within the organisation not primarily to support the policies of the organisation but to support their respective agendas and certain individuals.
The methods of recruitment also range from money changing hands, dealing in posts and positions of power from a branch level to the highest bodies from local government to national government. Would we not be expecting too much to hope that the youth and Congress structures can try to rescue the organisation from these well-entrenched tendencies and work towards strengthening the organisation? This infection permeates all our structures and none of them has escaped. Is there any basis to think that the behaviour of the leaders of the Congress Movement still absorbs the attention of the nation and more so of its membership?
In marking this significant occasion would it not be worthwhile to find a process and mechanism that will ensure that the interests of the people receive priority, taking control away from those leaders who make a business of politics and use the interests of the masses as bargaining chips.
Chief Luthuli was very passionate about the emancipation of Africa, part of which obtained independence during his lifetime. Looking back we know that independent Africa has been striving for the past 50 years to shake off this intolerable tendency of losing power to yet even fewer hands. Notwithstanding all attempts African peoples make they continue to sink ever deeper in this quagmire of corruption, gross exploitation and repression. It is here in Africa where we find all assorted syndicates and gangs of political speculators, who take possession of state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends in the name of patriotism, independence and freedom. To date, all ordinary African citizens are powerless against these syndicates and gangs of business people and politicians, who are apparently the servants of African people, but in reality exploit and plunder Africa and her people. How far does an African noble democracy differ from an African brutal tyrant dictator?
Many people of goodwill of all ages have been gagged and silenced through application of idioms and racial labels or smeared as non-patriotic. Who is a South African patriot and what is happening to our Congress` non-racialism and other such policies?
The natural thing to do as part of moral regeneration, rehabilitation and revival is to join Chief Luthuli as he says cultivate "interest in each individual member" and ensure that they regard their own being as an asset to the Congress and people. Eliminate any "feeling in members of impotence and helplessness" engendered by a variety of threats coercing them to take a cue from who have been given money and other resources. "On joining the Congress members should be given defined or specific duties which may be regarded as conditions of membership apart from subscriptions they must be given political education," and made to understand that they are the Congress and have to fight for their social, economic and cultural emancipation.
In Volume 3 of "From Protest to Challenge" Chief Luthuli makes an important remark: "I feel called upon to remind the African people of the grim fundamental facts of our situation which are painful reminders of our enslavement by the rulers... the grim story of our being robbed of opportunities for economic advancement is too long to narrate." What must we do to meet this challenge of a ruling class spiritually, psychologically and physically destroying us as a people?
He tells us that one feature in any life supporting processes is commitment. Looking at our present situation, of poverty, unemployment, inability to access land for housing, and insecurity, what are we really committing to as a ruling alliance? And what are the critical differences between today`s commitments and past ones?
In many respects, Chief Luthuli would have reminded us that in the spirit and letter of the demands enshrined in the Freedom Charter we do not demand these things for people of African descent alone. We demand them for all South Africans, white, coloured, Indian and black. To compromise on these principles would be an expediency that is most treacherous to democracy. An all-inclusive massive gain cannot pose any threats to any individual interest group or sector except when such interests are extraneous to South Africa.
Appealing to Chief Luthuli`s vision and aspirations, it is not late for South Africa to show the world a new pattern for democracy as a diverse community, a new example for the world based on the philosophy of ubuntu and human values.
Chief Luthuli is the living South Africa`s motive force, spirit and soul that appeals to us and our workers to count no sacrifice too great for Africa`s redemption. Our forefathers in this land fought back every inch of the way in defence of their homeland and of their freedom, and although they lost many a battle no one can say that they did so because of lack of courage or poverty of spirit. Why should a kind of supine submission to everything be expected from their descendents who are being spoilt by being the actual movers of economic, cultural, social and custodians of ubuntu philosophy?
All members of this rainbow nation salute Chief Luthuli for ensuring that all of us who live in this part of Africa are Africans. Is it not time that any South African could become our State President after President Thabo Mbeki. If you like labels, what would stop you from voting a coloured, white, Indian or African to that position? Why should skin pigmentation still be relevant and an issue for you? What makes you believe that only persons of a certain pigmentation are able to champion the ideals central to the Freedom Charter? Have we in the ANC not become even stronger after absorbing the former National Party?
Chief Luthuli would have reminded us that we be careful of notions of false persons supporting the betrayal of the masses by false reasons such as that some Africans are not ready to govern and rule but ready as political cannon fodder.
We salute Chief Luthuli for dedicating his life to mother Africa so long in fetters and to all who love her and strive to set her free.
* SANDILE SIJAKE was a member of the Luthuli Detachment of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
For almost 10 hours on Saturday 21 July 2007, the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban reverberated with song as 26 choirs competed in the Chief Albert Luthuli Choral Music Eisteddfod, in honour of this hero of our people.
Two songs had been especially composed as a tribute to the "Chief" as Inkosi Luthuli was affectionately referred to inside and outside the ANC, of which he was President-General for 14 years, until 1967. The songs were "Zabalaza Madlanduna" composed by Professor Musa Xulu, and "Indiva kaMvumbi" by Simon Ntombela. The Chief himself was a lover of choral music, having been a choirmaster at Adams College from 1920 to 1935.
The choirs came from the entire province of KwaZulu-Natal; from Port Shepstone in the South Coast, to Umkhanyakude in the far North Coast, and from Msunduzi, to Ulundi, to Newcastle and Umzimkhulu. The participants ranged from town to gown. This was as it should have been. Such was the magnetism of the man.
For those with a fascination for the hereafter, a story is told of a man who had died during one of the most devastating floods in living memory. As he was dramatically holding his audience in the nether world spellbound about his account of the floods, someone whispered in his ear that he should be a bit less dramatic as in the audience there was also Noah. As we all know, Noah had seen much worse floods in recorded human history.
Chief Luthuli led the ANC during its most defining period. It was during his Presidency that the ANC underwent its most profound transformation. Among these changes we can count:
For his vision, clarity of thought and moral authority he became a sought after speaker by black and white communities. "Uthini u Luthuli" became a question the answer to which was a way to settle thorny and complicated questions among the struggling masses.
The international community responded by honouring him with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, the first for an African.
The apartheid regime`s response had been to charge him with high treason, together with 155 other leaders. A non-racial society was being forged in the anvil of struggle. They were of course all acquitted. Luthuli was promptly banished to Groutville. This led to the transmogrification of this small village into the centre of the struggle. One might recall the backhanded tribute to Walter Sisulu by state prosecutor Percy Yutar during cross examination in the Rivonia Trial: "Mr Sisulu, it is either the revolution revolves around you or you revolve around the revolution!" Tata Sisulu, of course, ignored this question.
But what Percy Yutar said of Sisulu applies with equal force of truth to the Chief.
Chief Albert Luthuli presided over the transformation of the ANC to become the leader of the National Democratic Revolution. For that the ANC needed to transform itself into a movement of mass participation, which is more than just a movement of mass support; and more importantly, to be a movement championing non-racialism and non-sexism.
In April 1960 the movement for liberation was banned. An All-in Conference of African people was convened in the aftermath of the banning. It was chaired by Govan Mbeki. The conference had to answer the question "What is to be done?" There were those who said we needed to change the name and simply re-emerge clothed in a new name. This would be a tactical and legalistic response and it would be short-lived. The subsequent banning of the Liberal Party shows the correctness of this analysis.
There were some in the movement who argued for defiance of the banning order. But this would have populated the prisons with everyone who possessed an ANC membership card. The conference decided on deeper reflection.
A subsequent conference took place in Pietermaritzburg in 1961. Nelson Mandela made a dramatic entry and addressed this meeting and dramatically disappeared. He was now dubbed the "Black Pimpernel".
The message of the All-In Conference in Pietermaritzburg was that - banning or no banning - the struggle would continue by whatever means necessary. Utmost discipline was not only essential but ill-discipline would lead to unnecessary arrests, banishment and death.
When the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe was announced the psychological and political mood of the people was ripe. The slogan "Akubuzwa eMkhontweni" reflected a united and determined people.
The songs also reflected this unity and determination. For example, "Mkhulu, mkhulu lomsebenzi; umsebenzi wenkululeko. OMandela bafun` amajoni, amajoni enkululeko", or others like, "Singamasotsha ka Luthuli; singamasotsha kaLuthuli, naphi naphi lasiyakhona sinabofakazi"; and yet others like "Impi, iyeza noTambo, bayizigidi, bayizigidi, zinkulungwane, kwaboshw`imali, sesiqhamuka bahlohla amavolovolo, wabaleka wensizwa, wabaleka wemenenjana, kwaboshw`imali..." talking about those that had skipped bail and gone for military training.
A radio station, Radio Freedom, was established underground in Johannesburg; and it was wonderful for the morale of the people to suddenly hear Walter Sisulu broadcasting from underground.
Nelson Mandela joined his close friend and comrade, Oliver Tambo, in the free Africa at the formation of the Pan African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA), the forerunner of the OAU. While everyone thought he was outside the country he was soon inside, and was arrested outside Howick, after yet another trip to Natal to consult his President, Chief Albert Luthuli.
In 1963 the leadership of the ANC was arrested at Rivonia. If Umkhonto we Sizwe had not been established the blow to the people`s morale would have been devastating. The song "Ukhon`umkhonto" kept the fighting spirit alive.
The Chief was called to give evidence for the defence. Eloquently, he outlined the long, peaceful struggle which the African people, through their instrument of struggle, the ANC, had waged to no avail.
The peaceful nature of the struggle was recognised by all. Indeed he himself had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition. He had dedicated the prize to the African people of South Africa, "for the role they have played `during the last 50 years` to establish, peacefully, a society in which merit and not race would fix the position of the individual in the life of the nation".
In 1966 the US presidential hopeful, Robert Kennedy on his visit to South Africa insisted on meeting the authentic leader of the people, Chief Albert Luthuli. Kennedy could not be denied. He had earlier addressed the students at Stellenbosch University. He had responded to the usual racist shibboleth that apartheid was ordained by God who was, "as everybody knows" white.
Kennedy responded with a telling title "What if God is black". He was assassinated during the US election campaign in 1968.
Luthuli had established links with the democratic forces in the United States way back in 1948. In 1953 he had co-signed a declaration against racism with the not yet well-known Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. Dr King was himself awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and was assassinated on 4 April 1968.
It is forty years since the death of the Chief. Perhaps there is a special significance to the number forty. Didn`t the Exodus take forty years? Didn`t Jesus go forty days and forty nights without food? And wasn`t the period between His resurrection and ascension forty days?
Forty years after Luthuli the message for all South Africans is clear: If we wish to make a new world we have the material ready. The first one, too, was made out of chaos.
Our task now is not to fix the blame for the past but fix the course for the future. We are the children of Luthuli. But the family we come from is not as important as the family we are going to have.
* SIBUSISO NDEBELE is the ANC Provincial Chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal.
In the words of Chief Luthuli
On the adoption of the Freedom Charter:
"The Congress of the People was an ad hoc assembly. Afterwards, it remained for the participating organisations to adopt the Charter. The ANC ratified the Charter in March of the following year. It was, I may say, necessary that this should happen, since there were principles embodied in the Charter which had not previously been part of Congress policy. I sent a note to the Conference which ratified the Charter urging delegates to discuss fully such things as, for instance, the principle of nationalisation. I am myself in favour of limited nationalisation - I think it is the only answer to some of the economic problems which we face. Congress did not unanimously adopt the Charter, though the majority was large. But our extreme right dismissed it in toto. Their uncompromising stand made discussions very difficult."
On mass participation:
"For too long the tendency inherited in calmer days, was to `ask the leaders` if anything was contemplated. To branches of Congress which have applied to the top leadership, I have usually retorted: `There is not more wisdom here than in your own area. Tackle your local problems yourself. Don`t call for help until you find they are beyond you.` It was refreshing to see the boycott throwing up sound leaders who met the demands of the situation on their own."
"But even if they (the whites) did, I am against positive apartheid because I`m against apartheid. I am a South African, not four-fifths of a South African. I see no need to admit the failure of people of different races to live together in harmony - whereas Nationalist `positive apartheid` is an advertisement of their pessimism and defeat. They have given up hope of even trying to meet with and all and live with their neighbour. That hopelessness is suicide. I understand white fears of being `swamped` and surrendering or sharing their privileges."
"I cannot say that I am clear about what the Pan-Africanist Congress stands for, especially as its statements to date have been contradictory and vacillating. If their slogan `Africa for the Africans` means `Africa for the Aboriginals` then their appeal is obviously explosive. The white Nationalists daily make such a counsel of despair more acceptable, since they daily frustrate the achieving of a South Africa along non-racial lines, and a rabid form of African nationalism is the easy answer to white nationalism. But if I am misled here and `Africa for the Africans` does not mean `and the devil take all the others,` then PAC policy is not greatly divergent from ours, and the goal may be not dissimilar."
On non-racialism as a goal and a method towards a goal:
"The emergence of cooperation between people of different race is one of the most hopeful advances of the last twelve years, not merely because it increases the impact of resistance, but because it is the beginning of a non-racial South Africa. I believe that a racially exclusive resistance is a wrong reply to a racially exclusive oppression. It is morally the wrong reply, and it is also a demonstration of the wrong method if we think of the ideal it sets before our children. Tactically, the drawing in of our horns and the concentration of our forces may have some advantages, but in the long run it will obstruct the way to a South Africa which embraces all her children".
On never closing the door to unity among the people:
"I refrain from criticism of the Africanists, except for a few particulars. It is still my hope that the breach may be healed. Although at present tempers are very high. It would not matter to me which side the initiative came from, and as to the causes - well, all of us Africans in the Union live under strain, and bitter things have been said by both sides."
On the Zulu Monarch:
"In this connection there was a curious incident involving the Zulu Paramount. Efforts were made to get him to condemn the Defiance Campaign. Eventually a statement attributed to his uncle, formerly the Regent, appeared in the press, condemning the campaign in mild terms. In the normal course of events the Zulu people would take such a statement as expressing the mind of the Paramount. But on this occasion the Paramount disassociated himself at once, saying that only he could express his mind. It was the proper line for one who, but for the conquest, would be the Zulu king, to take. He stood apart, and refused to be manoeuvred into denouncing civil disobedience."
On the politics of despair:
"Another real weakness is that many Africans are still ignorant of the workings of a political system. They are even ignorant of what goes on in South Africa, apart from their local affairs... It is something we of the resistance movement have to contend with and not ignore... Along with this sort of depression, or capacity to be deceived or bought off by hollow promises, is to be found an unexpected and widespread misapplication of Christian trust. `Ah, Chief,` people say to me sadly, `God will give us freedom when He is ready.` It is a point of view expressed as often by heathens as by Christians - more often perhaps. Personal responsibility is abandoned, and God, some god or other, is invoked to justify it. The product is a kind of resigned fatalism, a daydream about what God may do in the future, while the present slips by. It is not altogether healthy, and of course cannot be reconciled with the Christian principle of work and pray.
The whites bank on this sort of thing. Indeed, they encourage it. Active religion, actually applied to the problems of human lives and society, usually offends them."
On the role of women:
"Women concern themselves, by and large, with fundamentals. It is the fundamentals at which the Nationalists have struck. Their Abolition of Passes Act imposed the pass system on them. The intensification of measures which shatter families has made it harder than ever before to keep families together, or to be sure of earning anything with which to feed children.
Allied to this is the fact that in recent years white wages have soared while African wages have hardly changed. All these things are the concern of women, and the involvement of African women in the struggle in the last ten or fifteen years has made them a formidable enemy of the oppressor. The things they live for - the security of their homes and families, and the well-being of their children - have been savagely assaulted. For them in many ways the struggle is a matter of life and death, quite literally."
And, "Women in African society have never been a subservient group. They have played to the full the part allotted to them by their nature - and some have gone well beyond that. One African woman of the last century led an army across the Orange Free State, and her name became a name of terror. Another, in the Transkei, had the authority to persuade her people to abandon their work and wait for the end of the world. When it did not come, the consequent starvation did terrible damage. More recently, the Swazis were ruled by a Queen. And among the Zulus, both before and since the coming of the whites, Zulu women have played a decisive political role."
On traditionalism that refuses to adapt:
"I found Swaziland pleasantly free - a welcome contrast to a country plagued with raiding police... The development of the territory seems unduly slow.
About one thing I was a little disturbed. I may be wrong, but I seemed to sense that this territory is being left behind by Bechuanaland and Basutoland partly because some African people are clinging obstinately to a dream of a return of the old Swaziland - a dream incapable of fulfillment now even more so since half the territory is owned by Europeans. There is perhaps, something a little stagnant in the air, and maybe a slowness in adapting to the challenges of this century. But if I am right that is a small price to pay for civil peace; and in time I have no doubt Swaziland will take its place with the rest of Southern Africa."
His childhood, cultural and religious upbringing, education and participation in student, traditional community and political activities in Natal prepared Chief Albert Luthuli for an illustrious national political career.
In his book "Let My People Go" Luthuli gives credit to women`s autonomous leadership in the struggle for freedom. He does not refer to his own contribution to the development of women leadership. Bongekile Jabulile Makhowa Dihomu bears testimony to Luthuli`s contribution. In 1957 the apartheid government started to introduce segregation in the nursing field to make African nursing education inferior to that of whites. For instance, the register of nurses was divided into two, one black and one white.
At Murdock Zulu Hospital Bongekile mobilised nurses against the new Nursing Act 59 of 1957. She was in the same group with Thandeka, Luthuli`s daughter, at the hospital. This relationship enabled Bongekile to meet secretly with Luthuli who was at that point in time banned.
Luthuli groomed Bongekile and other women such as Alzina Zondi and Gladys Manzi for participation in the broader democratic struggle. Bongekile was so profoundly influenced by Luthuli that in exile she mobilised Europeans to isolate South Africa. She also served in the NEC of the ANC Women`s League (ANCWL) in the United Kingdom, where she became a founder member of Mayibuye cultural unit and worked with the ANC pioneers.
Alzina Zondi testifies to the humility of Luthuli. One day Zondi met Luthuli on her way from the post office. She asked him whether he was not afraid to walk alone. Luthuli said he was not because he had not dispossessed anyone of their property. Subsequently Zondi met him at a meeting in Durban, where she assisted Albertinah, the daughter of Luthuli, to meet her father. Zondi described Luthuli as Umuntu wa Bantu (a man of the people). At this meeting Luthuli taught them Zulu history to help them understand the context of the struggle.
Quinet Dladla, a disciple of Luthuli born in Groutville, where Luthuli was chief, participated in the nurses` strikes of the sixties. She was dismayed by sellouts within their ranks. She would not sell out because Luthuli had taught them the cultural norm that one must always act in unison with others.
According to Phumani Johannes Phunguta, Luthuli always led from the front. When the defiance campaigns began Luthuli insisted on leading the first group and to be arrested first. His Christian beliefs notwithstanding, he was the first to burn a pass during the defiance campaigns.
Mathews Bafana Ngcobo related an interesting story which reveals Luthuli`s respect for the ANC branch, the basic structure of the organisation. Mathews was a member of the ANC branch at Kwa-Nene. Memela, the chairperson of the branch, was also a member of Regional Executive Committee. When there were differences of opinion between him and the branch executive, Memela put on his cap as a regional leader and dictated his opinion as the position of the branch.
Memela`s undemocratic conduct was reported to the provincial executive led by, inter alia, Moses Mabhida and Billy Khoza. When called to account Memela told them that no-one except Luthuli could challenge him. Luthuli personally came to the Kwa-Nene branch to address the matter.
On his arrival he sat under a tree and offered Memela and the branch executive a hearing. He refused to stay at a hotel. According to Mathews, Luthuli used songs and jokes to drive his points home. This approach was so effective that comerades never forgot his messages.
Phugula testifies that Luthuli was a pragmatic and realistic leader. When the youth grew impatient and suggested the use of force against the aggressor, he persuaded them to accept Gandhi`s non-violent strategy. Using the experiences of the Bambatha rebellion, he argued that one cannot overcome an aggressor armed with guns.
When the ANC decided to establish a military wing he was informed about the decision by Moses Kotane in his sugarcane fields, as he was banned. Though a Christian, he did not oppose armed struggle. For tactical reasons, however, he advised that it should be said that some members of the ANC, not the ANC, established a military wing.
Luthuli used Zulu history and culture as a mobilising tool. To that end he instructed Fred Dube to conduct research on the history of the ANC at the University of Natal. Luthuli was popular and loved by the people. When he appeared in Kwa Mashu to address a meeting of the Residents Association established as a cover for ANC work residents climbed on rooftops to get a sight of him.
All observers are at one, that Luthuli was a brave, respectful, humble man who interacted with all and sundry. He was always advising and encouraging others. He was a wise and educated man, but always wore his khakhi clothes and associated with others regardless of social standing.
Clash of cultures
The Luthuli family was one of the first families which came into contact with missionary Christianity and colonialism. In January 1835, a British Naval Commander, Captain Allen Francis Gardiner, arrived in KwaZulu-Natal after abandoning his career to come to work among the Zulus as a missionary pioneer. He was received by Dingane, the Zulu Monarch, who rejected his Western Christianity but allowed him to stay provided he taught them how to use the barrel-loading musket.
Although Gardiner declined he was ultimately made Induna of Durban, which at that time the Zulus regarded as an outlying royal court. In return for his services as an Induna he was allowed to found the first mission station north of the Tugela River. Quite independently of Gardiner, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent three men into Zululand. In the middle of January 1836 they arrived at Dingane`s royal court where they were received with utmost kindness.
The three missionaries were Rev George Champion, Dr Newton Adams, and the Rev Aldin Grout. Two of them, gave their attention to a community about 3,000 in number, which had collected in the neighbourhood of a white settlement. Some time after this Grout left his work near Durban and, after failing to gaining a foothold deep in Zululand, settled near the Umvoti River where he built his mission station on a site that came to be known as Groutville or Umvoti Mission Reserve. This was the home of Luthuli and his forefathers.
The intimacy between Rev Aldin Grout and the local Zulu community turned Groutville into a Christian community. Initially the number of African converts was small. But the intimacy of the pastor and the community gave the latter an opportunity to inspect and assess it over an indefinite period. Thus an increasing number came to accept western Christianity. Those who did not do so appreciated its value and respected it. And perhaps more significantly neighbouring Zulu chiefs allowed the development of this new Christian society among their people.
The conversion of Africans to western Christianity mean an entirely new way of life, a new outlook, a new set of beliefs and the creation, almost, of a new kind of people. However, the Zulu converts became Christians without loosing their Africaness.
The civil disturbance caused by European infiltration and nation-building initiates during the first half of the 19th Century augmented the Groutville community. With this growth came the need to have a community leader. Rev.
Grout went to the local Inkosi to appoint a chief over the Groutville community. The first appointee was dismissed because he was unable to reconcile the traditional and western Christian ethos and provide leadership to the new society.
When Rev Grout asked for a new appointment to be made, the Inkosi appointed Ntaba Luthuli, who was able to reconcile the contradictions between western Christianity and African culture and religion. Ntaba Luthuli and his wife, Titisi, were Grout`s first two converts to Christianity. They were both zealous Christians.
Ntaba Luthuli was a gifted diplomat. This emerged quite clearly when he was confronted by a question relating to the relations between church and state.
Being a deacon (elder) of the Groutville congregation Ntaba Luthuli was asked, at a time of war between the Zulus and the British, to pray for the success of the Queen`s forces. He said in his prayer "O God, protect the victims of whoever is the aggressor in this War." Partly because of his diplomacy, Ntaba Luthuli remained at the head of Groutville affairs until his death. His cousin, and later Martin Luthuli, Inkosi Luthuli`s uncle, succeeded to the office. The appointment of Martin Luthuli confirmed the compatibility of African traditional governance and participatory democracy.
Four out of Groutville`s seven Inkosis had been Luthulis, but Albert Luthuli`s family never laid a claim to any hereditary right to chieftaincy.
The community of Groutville merged their traditional and Western traditions to produce a new community leader. They used the two traditions not only to elect inkosis, but on two occasions to replace them when their rule was felt to be not in the community`s interest. This provided abundant evidence that traditional African governance was (and still is) not based on arbitrary rule. It was (and still is) traditional leaders who were appointed and assimilated by colonial and missionary systems, who embraced the Western feudal culture and indegenised it. In 1921 Josiah Mqebu succeeded Martin Luthuli as Inkosi of the Groutville community; in 1935 Albert Luthuli succeeded him.
John Luthuli, younger brother of Martin Luthuli and second son of Ntaba Luthuli, was the father of Inkosi Albert Luthuli. John Luthuli married princess Mtonya the mother of Albert Luthuli. This princess was profoundly steeped in Zulu culture and religion. She spent a part of her childhood in the royal court of King Cetwayo, a descendent of Dingane. In terms of African royal tradition subordinate inkosis and nobles, in paying their respects to the king, offer him the custody of children.
Albert Luthuli`s mother was a child transferred from her own family to Cetwayo`s court in this manner. For all practical purposes she became thenceforth a part of the royal court, enjoying the status of a king`s daughter. In time Cetwayo gave her in marriage to a man he desired to honor, Mnqiwu Gumede. Luthuli`s mother was born of this marriage. When she was past child bearing age Luthuli`s grandmother was given leave, in accordance with Zulu custom, to return to her home, the Zulu royal court. Her youngest daughter, Mtonya went with her to minister to her needs.
The clash between western Christianity and traditional African culture and religion made Albert Luthuli`s grandmother restless and adventurous. She found her life circumscribed by some aspects of African culture and traditions. She resolved this contradiction by leaving Zululand and bringing her husband and daughter, mother of Albert Luthuli to Groutville community.
Before her marriage Mtonya, Luthuli`s mother became a Christian. After marriage to John Luthuli they moved with some young Europeans to Rhodesia, where Luthuli served in the Rhodesian forces during the so-called Matebele rebellion.
When hostilities ended John Luthuli remained in Rhodesia, where he was attached to a Seventh Day Adventist mission near Bulawayo as an evangelist and interpreter. Albert Luthuli was born on Rhodesian soil between 1898 and 1900. His father died shortly thereafter and was buried at Solusi Mission Station near Bulawayo.
The Seventh Day Adventist church decided to begin their missionary activities in Natal and to use Luthuli`s mother as an interpreter. Thus Mtonya Luthuli and her son returned to Natal in about 1908 or 1909. Upon his return Albert Luthuli was sent to Groutville for schooling.
Albert Luthuli became a member of the household of his uncle, Martin Luthuli, who was by that time the Inkosi of Groutville. Here Albert learnt to appreciate the benefits of the extended African family as opposed to the Western family unit.
For the Luthulis, distinction between the traditionalists and Christians did not mean discrimination. They did not imbibe with their faith the sense that Christians were better then traditionalists. Despite great differences of education and outlook Groutville did not create an elite cut off from the ordinary life of the village.
The Luthulis transcended denominational boundaries. They servered their connection with the Adventists and returned to the congregational church in Groutville. On the family site occupied by Ntaba Luthuli they built a new house. Albert left the home of his uncle Martin to live with his mother until he left for boarding school. During his stay with his mother he learnt to appreciate how she laboured to ensure his education. She worked diligently in her small fields, becoming a successful vegetable gardener who did not rely on charity. She also disciplined Albert for his begging tendencies.
The lack of ready cash and capital to work the whole land forced Mtonya Luthuli to walk regularly to Stanger, the nearest European settlement, to earn a few shillings washings clothes. When she had earned what she could, she returned to her vegetable garden. Albert witnessed and imbibed the culture of self-help and self-reliance from home.
Education and Training
Luthuli reached Standard 4 in the Groutville school. In 1914 he continued his education at the Ohlange Institute, founded by John Langalibalele Dube, the first President of the ANC. At the time when he went to Ohlange Institute, Dube, an Ethiopianist and disciple of Booker T Washington, was the principal of the institute. At the end of the year Luthuli was transferred to a Methodist institution at Edenvale, near Pietermaritzburg.
When at Edenvale Luthuli went on to a two-year teachers` course, where a great deal of emphasis was placed on personal responsibility and the development of active adult leadership. During his training he acquired a regard for the teaching profession and imbibed the high standards of his teachers.
Despite his education at the hands of white teachers Luthuli rejected the nationalist`s notion that missionary schools produced black Englishmen and women.
"It was no more necessary for the pupils to become black Englishmen than it was for the teachers to become white Africans. Two cultures met, and both Africans and Europeans were affected by the meeting, both profited, and both survived enriched. At Edenvale, at Adams, and informally at other times, I have been taught by European mentors. I am aware of a profound gratitude for what I have learned, I remain an African, I think as an African, I speak as an African, I act as an African, and as an African I worship the God whose children we are. I do not see why it should be otherwise."
At the conclusion of his teacher training at Edenvale Luthuli went to teach at a place called Blaawbosch in the Natal Uplands.
Up till then Luthuli was a Christian by accident of upbringing rather than by conscious choice. While at Blaawbosch he came under the influence of Rev Mtembu, a conscientious African Minister, with whom he raised issues which he had taken for granted. Here, he was also lodged with the family of an evangelist of the Methodist Church named Xaba. There was no local congregational church for Luthuli to attend. He took a conscious decision to be confirmed in the Methodist Church in which he subsequently became a lay preacher. Like his forebearers Luthuli transcended denominational barriers.
For him any church, regardless of denominational identity, was a rightful house of worship.
At about that time the department opened a Higher Teachers Training Course at Adams College. When he had been at Blaauwbosch for two years, the department notified him that he had been recommended for a bursary which would see him through this course.
When Luthuli completed his higher teachers` course he was faced with a hard choice. Dr CT Loram, Natal`s first Chief Inspector for Native Education, offered him a bursary to study at the University College of Fort Hare, but Luthuli declined because he felt his mother had laboured enough to support his education and it was time for him to release her from work in her old age. The Birth of Native Education
Luthuli was offered a teaching post at Adams College. When he first joined the staff, African education was undergoing dramatic change led by Loram. Before his appointment, there was not much difference between black and white education.
The driving intention of Loram, in all Luthuli`s words, was: "To equip African children for the lives white South Africa decreed they would have to live. Since they had been cast for the role of hewers of wood and drawers of water, their education must equip them to hew wood and draw water. I doubt whether Dr Loram was aware of how cramped a future he was (by implication) predicting for us. In fact, I imagine that he assumed uncritically that we shall forever be what most of white South Africa says we are, and he set out to make us contented in our mental shackles."
In 1925 Luthuli was elected secretary of the African Teachers` Association which led to more voluntary and routine activities. Later, in 1933, he became president of the same body. In these capacities Luthuli acquired negotiation and administrative skills. Luthuli founded the Zulu Language and Cultural Society as an auxiliary to the Teachers` Association. He believed that an authentic, comprehensive South African culture would grow in its own way: "We were thoroughly aware of the meeting of cultures, African, European, and of the disorganisation of both, especially the African, as a result. We did not have the desire of the nationalists that we should return to the primitive. But we did have an intense wish to preserve what is valuable in our heritage while discarding the inappropriate and outmoded.
Our people were ill-equipped to withstand the impact of a twentieth-century industrial society. Our task seemed to consist of relating the past coherently to the present and the future."
The Zulu Language and Cultural Society thrived well until after Luthuli had left teaching.
Then it accepted a government grant, lost its independence, and declined after becoming involved in the Native Affairs Department and Zulu Royal House politics. After the withdrawal of the teachers it collapsed.
Clash of identities
At first Luthuli had a limited ambition to serve God and his neighbour. But at Adams College the privilege of meeting people extended beyond students and staff.
ZK Matthews was one of the persons that stimulated Luthuli. Still among his colleagues was Dr Breuckner, head of the industrial School. Although Luthuli did not find him an interesting preacher, he preserved and lived by his words: "You must give a charitable interpretation to every man`s actions, until you can prove that such an interpretation is unsound."
Luthuli tried to live by this adage in his meetings with people.
His strongest encounter was with De Villiers, an Afrikaner who was denied entry into the ministry of the Dutch Reformed Church because of his modernist views. De Villiers was much closer to Africans on the staff than most white teachers. He defied the informal apartheid at Adams College and joined and engaged African teachers in lengthy discussions in their private rooms. More than any one person, De Villiers helped Luthuli to forestall his intolerance of whites in general and of Afrikaners in particular. More specifically De Villiers made Luthuli aware that the existence of racial oppression was the product of deliberate training that he had revolted against: "If you find an Afrikaner who is liberal, you must recognise that he gets to that point only after a good deal of heart-searching and repentance, because he`s been brought up to dislike and look down on Natives. We`ve been taught that Natives aren`t like you people here."
This confession helped Luthuli to understand that in South Africa white children were brought up to despise black children.
De Villiers impacted greatly on the African staff of Adams College because he opened up a side of South African affairs of which they were largely ignorant. Despite his own revolt against Afrikaner ethos he gave them a sense of Afrikaners as victims of their own past. This interpretation gave Luthuli an understanding of the forces which shape human beings and gave him insight into the dilemma of whites, particularly Afrikaners, which in later years served as a real protection against hatred and bitterness.
* MATHOLE MOTSHEKGA is an ANC member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Director of the Kara Heritage Institute.